Auditor gets OK for interactive mapping system

LISBON — Developers looking for a place to locate a business will soon be able to search a detailed computer mapping system to determine if any sites in Columbiana County meet their needs.

County commissioners on Wednesday gave county Auditor Nancy Milliken the permission she requested to hire Ohio University for development of a geographic information system (GIS), a detailed interactive mapping system that will provide an electronic map and photograph of each parcel in the county along with ownership information. Like an onion, online users can peal back layers of the map to look for other information, such as streets, buildings and other structures, available utilities, whether the area is zoned, flood plain information, land use, mineral rights, existing pipelines, topographic data, and type of vegetation.

“Think of a paper map with various overlays. What we are doing (with GIS) is creating a base (electronic) map and then developing various layers of information anyone can call up,” said county Development Director Tad Herold, whose office has been working with Milliken on the project. “Someone in California can look at GIS and say this is great site for my business.”

The information is available now but separately and in one form or another at different government agencies around the county. Officials said having a countywide GIS would provide one-stop shopping for developers, government agencies or anyone else needing access to a comprehensive database on any one of the 75,000 parcels of property in the county.

“I think this will move us ahead to where Columbiana County can attract more businesses,” Milliken said.

Herold said the lack of countywide GIS has likely hampered their efforts to attract developers, with Milliken noting the county is one of the few left in Ohio without GIS.

“Essentially, Columbiana County is a black hole for them. There was no information available for (developers),” he said.

Officials noted GIS can be updated, and the information it provides will benefit other county agencies, such as the auditor, engineer, Emergency Management Agency and the county 911 system, as well as cities, villages and townships.

The contract is for two-years, with Ohio University to be paid $412,953. The GIS is to be developed in four phases based on geography, with the northwestern part of the county to go first. Milliken said it would have cost them over a $1 million had they hired a private contractor.

Officials have a comfort level with Ohio University because the university was hired last year by Milliken to develop GIS for Salem Township and Leetonia as a pilot program at a cost of $22,215. Milliken said they were satisfied with the final product, which is why she and Herold recommended the county hire Ohio University for the entire job.

The money is coming from the auditor’s office real estate fund. Milliken said a portion of property taxes goes into a fund, which is used to pay for the state-mandated countywide reappraisals every six years.

The county will provide local assistance for Ohio University, and Herold has spoken with officials in the geography department at Youngstown State University and they are interested in providing interns to help with the data collection.