WILLIAMSTOWN -- With just the click of a mouse, residents may some day be able to access information about local properties without having to visit Town Hall.
They may also be able to see exactly how far their homes are from local landmarks, businesses, water and sewer lines and fire hydrants, as part of a new geographic information system (GIS) that was recently created for the town.
"The possibilities are endless," Jason McNair, IT technician and assistant assessor, said Monday.
The system is designed to store, analyze and present geographic data in an efficient way, he said. For example, if someone wanted to find out the locations of all town-owned properties, that person could type the information into a search, and all those properties would be highlighted on the map.
"Initially, we plan to use the system internally. But looking ahead, this is something we're looking to eventually roll out for public use," he said.
When the system is ready to be shared with the public, it will likely start out with providing information on only property ownership and details, he said.
A cost estimate of the project was unavailable as of Monday afternoon.
In addition, the system is compliant with the highest level standard of MassGIS, which is a state agency charged with collecting, storing and disseminating geographical data for a statewide GIS, he said.
McNair said that having a GIS is something town
"We realized that if we were going to have this system, we needed to start with the best data possible," he said.
The decision was made to have the town's 99 parcel maps updated at the same time the GIS was being created, he said. Both projects were done by Cartographic Associates of Littleton, N.H. Since the town's last comprehensive parcel map drawing project in 1976, each update on the maps -- until recently -- has been based on those drawings.
"The parcel data is a layer that was created to overlay the actual town features on the GIS map itself," McNair said. "It gives us the most accurate description of property."
Town Planner Andrew Groff said the use of GIS software by the town began with the Department of Public Works. For Inspection Services, the system has helped with mapping zoning districts and conservation areas, he said. It was also used track the status of homes in The Spruces Mobile Home Park following Tropical Storm Irene.
"It's a valuable thing for the town to have," he said. "Anything you can think of that the town does that requires mapping can now be done in-house."
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