The Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation District is providing an updated way for residents to access information.
It's a system called a GIS?viewer which stands for a geographic information system. The computer system isn't new by any means and is used in nearly every county office in the state.
However, the Soil and Water Conservation District encourages county residents to use the online viewer.
Brandee Douglas, assistant program administrator, explains some of the uses for the GIS viewer and there are many.
"Many offices in the county use this program," she says. "The highway department can use it, 911 uses it for dispatching, even the veterans office can use it to locate cemeteries."
The main use for this system would also be the main reason it got started and that's drainage.
In 2008 the county received a Drainage Record Modernization Grant through the state.
"This really spearheaded the project and is what made us want to get the county's drainage information online,"?Douglas says.
Before the information was put onto this system, they had old maps of the county tiles and drainage systems.
Now that they are using the GIS?system they can easily access, update and use the maps.
"We update the information every month,"?she adds.
Aside from all the uses for the county departments, residents can and should utilize this program as well.
"At least one person everyday comes into the office with a question about tiles or to see a map,"?Douglas says.
With the GIS?viewer they can access the maps anytime of day.
A?GIS?viewer has two components; one is the spatial component, the other is the attributes component.
The spatial aspect of the program will allow users to see the area they are interested in. For example, a landowner would be able to see an aerial view of their land.
The attribute component is where the information comes into play, like viewing tile locations over the aerial photo.
The GIS?viewer combines the spatial view with the information making it easy for people to view a specific piece of land and the information attached to it.
"The ease of this program depends on the familiarity for the user,"?Douglas says. "However if anyone has any questions we encourage them to call or stop into the office."
Many people will recognize similarities between the GIS?viewer and other popular online maps.
The SWCD is continuing to improve the viewer for users.
In fact, this spring they added the pictometry feature which provides an aerial view as well as an oblique view.
"This is a cool feature,"?she says. "The county assessor can use this to measure area of a building or the sheriffs department can easily see the number of exits in a home."?
Now that pictometry imaging has been added to the website, they will continue on the next step of improving the viewer.
"We are going to be adding zoning permits to the viewer," Douglas explains. "We have also received a grant for that."
Eventually the program will be to the point where a landowner could go to the map and view the information on that piece of land and download a copy of the permit.
As the project progresses, the viewer will improve communication between residents and the county, provide easy access to a lot of data and improve the overall records kept by the county.
"When a contractor or someone notices a change or makes a change to the drainage systems or tiles, they can use the online system to draw the change,"?she explains.
The program has a drawing tool they can use to add the change and print or e-mail it to the office and they can easily update the information.
"There are a lot of features and people can really get into using them or just access the basic information,"?Douglas says.
The GIS?viewer is accessible by going to faribaultcountyswcd.com and clicking on the GIS?viewer link.
"It's a great tool for people to access information at any time of day on any day."? Douglas adds.