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State GIS Mapping System Discussed at Mendon Cabinet Meeting

A state GIS Mapping system was the topic of conversation at the February 1 Mendon Board of Selectmen's meeting. The Board met with the newly formed Mendon Boards and Commissions Cabinet (MBCC) to discuss the possibility of expanding the use of the Geographical Information System (GIS) that would ultimately benefit multiple departments in town.

In December, the MBCC was formed by the Selectmen in an effort to improve communication among the town's boards and committees. One of the first topics brought up among the members was the mutual benefit a GIS Mapping system would bring. As a result, at the February 1 meeting, Matt Franz, a GIS analyst from the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, was brought in to review the best options for Mendon.

According to Franz, there are two types of GIS systems; one is a free online service and the other is a purchased program that provides more in-depth data. The free online service is called MuniMapper and was put in place by the Commonwealth to be used by any community in Massachsetts. "This is an option if you're just starting off and you don't want to fork a lot of money into it," said Franz. He added it is good place to start, "if you're not sure who will be using it." He added that towns utilizing the free system are responsible for inputting their own data.

MuniMapper provides access to mapping information from the MassGIS system that is specific to each city or town. It offers certain capabilities for displaying, searching, and sharing map information applicable to municipalities. Assessor Jean Berthold stated she applied for grant funding that would add enhancements to the MuniMapper system such as designations and lot numbers that are Mendon-specific. It was noted there would be additional costs to Mendon if certain layers of mapping were desired.

Town Administrator Kim Newman stated there are private software packages that are fancier than the MuniMapper system that towns must pay for but their data is entered as part of the costs. "This (MuniMapper) is the same service but without all the bells and whistle and it's already available," she said.

Newman suggested it might be a good idea to initially start with the MuniMapper system to determine if it provides enough information to begin with and then re-evaluate the town's mapping needs.

"I would think a next good step would be for people to get in there, bop around if they haven't already and get some idea on how this might be useful," suggested Selectman Rich Schofield.

Selectman Chair Mark Reil agreed. "There's a lot on there already. This is a good starting base instead of starting completely new and paying a lot of money."


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