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Calvert GIS system one of ‘most advanced’ in state

By AMANDA HARRISON

Staff writer

Specialized maps and tools used by county government on a daily basis are now available to the public, thanks to the Department of Technology Services.

On Tuesday, technology services showed the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners the geographic information system, or GIS, that the public can access on the county website.

“This is the worst kept secret going, as far as I’m concerned, in county government,” said Joe Klausner, the director of technology services. “Worst, from the perspective of there’s a large body of information and work that this group has done already.”

GIS integrates software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying geographically referenced information.

“GIS is a combination of things,” said Kathleen O’Brien, the GIS coordinator, such as people, data, applications and spacial information, “that helps us better understand things in context with the real world.”

The county’s GIS program, which began 10 years ago with a needs assessment, “is one of the most advanced” in the state among counties, and Calvert offers many maps that other counties don’t, O’Brien said.

“We’ve tried to make everything available that people might need,” she said of all the interactive and downloadable hard copy maps.

There are a variety of interactive maps available to the public, including flood plain and critical area boundary maps, an election district map, a census map and a map tracking where the county spends capital improvement program funds.

In addition, there are other maps that locate recreational facilities, county services, local history and topography, and a map that shows how Calvert looked at various times, beginning in 1816.

Erick Pate, a GIS analyst with the department, explained that residents can search for a property using a variety of methods and look at land boundaries, the topography and that property’s related tax records.

Eric Benson, the department’s GIS technician, explained that the public can also access these maps on the go by downloading an iPhone and iPad app the ArcGIS App.

O’Brien said the department is working on making more of the maps mobile device compatible and creating an Android smartphone app.

Benson also worked closely with Kirsti Uunila, the county’s historic preservation planner, to make available the historic maps Uunila has collected over the years beginning with John Smith’s map of Virginia dated 1612.

In conjunction with Uunila and the Department of Community Planning and Building, the historic “Mackall Road Route” driving tour has also been turned into an interactive story map.

“It’s an amazing tool,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said. “It’s very exciting that it has gotten to this point” after 10 years.

“The data is maintained constantly,” O’Brien said, of any concerns a citizen may have regarding the most updated information presented in the maps.

The maps can be accessed from a direct link on the county website, www.co.cal.md.us, along with tutorials on how to use them.

In other business, the commissioners:

Ÿ Unanimously approved the closure and conveyance of a 7,700-square-foot portion of Farren Avenue in Solomons to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Biological Laboratory;

Ÿ Honored Robert L. Williams for his retirement after 21 years of service as a compact operator with the division of solid waste, Patricia Y. Chew for her retirement after 25 years of service as a compact operator with the division of solid waste and Henry B. Harris Sr. for his retirement after 26 years of service as a highway maintenance crew leader.