By Bob Uphues
The village of Brookfield will apply for membership in the GIS Consortium, a partnership of more than 30 small- and mid-size suburban Chicago communities, who share resources and technology to electronically organize public data – from the location and condition of water mains and sewers to property and building records, tree and sign inventories and more.
Founded in 1998 in the north suburbs, the consortium has grown steadily to include suburbs all across the Chicago area, including Riverside, which joined the GIS Consortium in 2008 – the first near west suburb to do so.
"It's kind of integral to our operations," said Riverside Public Works Director Edward Bailey, who said his team can access information and identify issues in the field at the touch of a tablet device.
Riverside also uses the GIS Consortium to produce maps to keep the public informed about construction projects, to locate and provide information on every public tree in the village and even assist police and firefighters in verifying information.
Since becoming a GIS Consortium member, Riverside has provided a work station for a consortium site analyst, who works onsite one day a week. Right now, Bailey said, the analyst is updating the storm and sanitary sewer map in the village's First Division, which underwent a large-scale sewer construction project in 2016.
While conducting the design engineering, officials discovered that the existing sewer records – which were based on old paper documents -- didn't match what was actually going on underground. Having GIS capability allows the village to update that kind of information quickly to ensure accurate records.
"It's important that these records are accurate and available on demand," Bailey said.
The GIS Consortium contracts with a company called Municipal GIS Partners, whose sole client is the GIS Consortium, to provide staff who are shared by member communities. Any technology created through the consortium is shared with all of its members.
The village of Riverside in 2019 is paying about $40,750 for its membership in the GIS Consortium. Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg indicated that Brookfield could expect to pay about $55,000 per year, based on one person from the GIS Consortium working one day per week.
If the village is accepted into the consortium, Brookfield could become a member in early 2020.
Wiberg is very familiar with the GIS Consortium. He was village manager of Lincolnwood when that suburb joined the consortium in 2005.
"Once you have it, you wonder how you did without it," Wiberg said. "There's an advantage for the public, who will now have access to easily navigable data, and it's so much more efficient to find and manage records. This is a step toward modernizing our data."
Brookfield Public Works Director Carl Muell said he's looking forward again to having the GIS Consortium as a resource. The village of Lisle was a consortium member when he worked as a public works foreman in that municipality.
In Lisle, the public works department not only digitally mapped its utilities, but was able to make those maps interactive. For example, Lisle televised all of its sewers and then paired the video with their locations on the sewer map, so workers could immediately call up not only locations, but view the condition of the pipe at the location.
"There's still a lot to learn, but it's a great tool," Muell said. "I missed it when I moved to Westchester [where he was public works superintendent for six years]."