The Macomb Daily
Township officials hire GIS specialist
A new GIS specialist will join Macomb Township’s municipal staff in March, a position department heads say will allow greater resident access to township geographic information.
On Nov. 30 during a regular meeting, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees hired Molly Marks to the new internal and budgeted position of GIS specialist. Human Resources Director Jeff Tabaka said three resumes were received for the position, and two candidates were interviewed. Interviews took place on Nov. 15, and the interview committee consisted of Tabaka, Land Development Director Jim Van Tiflin, Planning Director Josh Bocks, Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Kevin Johnson and an employee of Fishbeck engineering company, which currently serves as consultants in the township. Tabaka said that Marks’ effective hire date will be in March 2023, contingent upon successful completion of post-offer requirements. There is also a six-month probation period.
Trustee Frank Cusumano questioned whether Marks met the job requirements, citing requirements such as three years of direct related GIS experience, or an associate’s degree and five years of directly related GIS experience. Tabaka said that the committee, including the Fishbeck employee, felt Marks was efficient to do the job and were happy with her.
“She has been doing this since 2020. We are going into 2023 so would be three years. She did have four months while she was in college, she did some stuff in Yuma, Ariz..She also did four months in New Mexico,” Tabaka said.
Treasurer Leon Drolet said the hire will bump the township’s full-time workforce up to 120.
“But effectively the growth of the employment at our township has been less during that period of time than the growth of the population of the township for most of those years,” Drolet said. “So I think at this point we, the township has done a pretty good job of ensuring that, making sure that the hires we have made are prudent, the hires that we make are justified and that we are being very careful when we do decide to bring on additional staffing.”
GIS, or Geographic Information System, is software with a database of geographic information. It allows the user to manage, analyze and visualize data. This mapping system gives an in-depth look at township infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, zoning, easements, site plans and more. Supervisor Frank Viviano asked Bocks and Van Tiflin to explain why the new position is unique, what the job will consist of and why the township decided to hire someone to perform these duties in-house. Van Tiflin said that the township established a GIS when it went through its SAW grant. Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater Program (SAW) grants are awarded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“So basically what we did is we mapped the entire sanitary sewer system using this grant funding. The township has since mapped all of the water system,” Van Tiflin said. “So we are in the process of, as new subs come online, we have to have that information added. The DPW is going in and inspecting sewers all of the time. You have approved contracts with various TV and cleaning crews, they do manhole inspection, all of those things, all those records are then taken and linked in, in this mapping system, essentially it is what a GIS is. And so you can go to a specific location on the map, click on whatever the feature is and gain all sorts of information.”
Van Tiflin said GIS is used internally by various township departments, and could be used externally by the public also.
“We use it quite a bit, the DPW uses it a lot more and they hope to be using it a lot more as time goes by,” Van Tiflin said. “It can also be simplified and put on the website, for example, for residents to use so they can click on their own parcel and gain all sorts of information that they might have to otherwise call and talk to the staff here. They want, you know, plans for their house or they, you know, want to have their tax information and want to know what their zoning is for a particular piece of property. They can go to GIS, click on a couple of links and all that information pops up on their screen. So it is more efficient for us to use but it is also something that we are hoping will eventually, with this new hire, we are going to be able to have available to residents as well.”
A Fishbeck consultant currently does GIS work for the township, primarily just to maintain data, according to Van Tiflin. The new employee will allow the township to expand GIS, he said.
“So we have looked at it, we can have somebody come in-house and do most of that work on their own for basically the same amount of money that we are spending,” Van Tiflin said. “But we are hoping also that we are able to expand this to other departments so that we have more information that is readily available, that is easier to use. You don’t have to go down to the basement, find the information, copy it, scan it, e-mail it to somebody. It is right, available and you can grab it off of your screen and send it to whoever is asking for the information. So that is basically what this position would be doing.”
Van Tiflin estimated that currently the township spends about $8,000 simply for GIS maintenance with an exterior consultant.
“My experience as a consultant before I came to work here is that successful GIS usage within a municipality really does depend on having somebody in-house that you can go to when you have issues,” Van Tiflin said.
Viviano said the new hire is another step in the township’s plan to digitize all records, and once this is fully realized with all departments, it will be a tool they all can use.
“One of the things we had discussed early on about having this position is that eventually even the building department inspectors could be in the field doing an inspection, pull up whatever history of the records they have, fire can use it the same, the same way, DPW, planning,” Viviano said.
Bocks said that the GIS will integrate all zoning and allow residents to know if a new development is coming in next to them, or if there is potential for development on vacant property.
“You can figure out what is allowed, what zoning would allow to be built or constructed next door,” Bocks said. “You can figure out where if there is an easement on your property, if there are floodplains, all, all of that information will be included in there.”
Clerk Kristi Pozzi, who joined the meeting remotely from Mount Pleasant where she was attending a required clerk master academy course, said her office used the Fishbeck GIS specialist extensively during redistricting.
“We continue to have to refer back to them when we are trying to use QR codes that allow our voters to see where they are registered to vote by using the map that they create, and we anticipate having to use them again in January when we believe the precincts will be increased to 4,999 registered voters, which will require us to redraw our maps again in our precincts and boundary lines. So we have used them extensively in the last year and anticipate using them again in the future, so it has been a benefit to our department as well,” Pozzi said.