Featured Story
10/30/15 10:00am
JULIE LANE PHOTO | Supervisors (from left) Sean Walter of Riverhead, Scott Russell of Southold and Shelter Island’s Jim Dougherty signed an intermunicipal agreement Wednesday with other local, county and state officials to improve and protect the Peconic Estuary.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Supervisors (from left) Sean Walter of Riverhead, Scott Russell of Southold and Shelter Island’s Jim Dougherty signed an intermunicipal agreement Wednesday with other local, county and state officials to improve and protect the Peconic Estuary.

The East End Supervisors and Mayors Association (EESMA) has unveiled a “Peconic Estuary Protection Committee” with Suffolk County to determine the condition of area waters and address remediation efforts when necessary. (more…)

02/22/12 10:31pm

It has been a long time coming but the Shelter Island Town Board took a giant step forward into the online computer age last week, according to Councilman Peter Reich. It authorized the expenditure of $3,300 this year and $6,600 a year for the next three years to implement an online geographic information system (GIS) that will, over time, enable greater efficiency for all town departments but particularly for police and highway departments, he said.

Eventually, GIS will help boards and committees make decisions and review applications more efficiently by tracking current land use applications and gathering historical data for specific locations with ease, Mr. Reich said. During Town Board discussions, he has said that some data in the system will become available to the public through the town’s website.

The Town Board signed a contract earlier this month with Fuss & O’Neill Technologies of Manchester, Connecticut to implement its Community Explorer System this year at half of the typical annual cost, $6,600, Mr. Reich said. The town will pay the full cost for the next three years for ongoing development and maintenance of the system, he said. What happens after three years? The cost could come down, he said.

The reason the company negotiated a lower fee for this year was that Shelter Island hadn’t budgeted for the system and would have had to put its development on hold without a price break, he said. It was worth it to the company to get a foot in the door on Shelter Island to make the cost manageable.

For Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card, the system will mean he can track the locations of dry wells, septic systems and water mains, the dates when they were installed and when they need maintenance, Mr. Reich said. That would help in meeting storm water runoff management goals as mandated by the federal government under the MS4 program.

The system also could mean identifying locations of historic trees for maintenance; having all street lights mapped; and being able to show all moorings and docks surrounding the Island. The length, width and height of each dock could also be clearly shown, he said.

As a zoning tool, it could be used to show all overlay districts, including the newly created causeway district, and locations of all non-conforming businesses in various residential districts, Mr. Reich said.

The new system could track the history of various properties, he said. While the Zoning Board of Appeals, in granting variances, often sets conditions limiting future changes, that information, over time, often becomes lost or difficult to track, Mr. Reich said. Using GIS, the board’s conditions would be entered into the system and, when an applicant sought a change, the record could be quickly and easily accessed.

There’s an unlimited list of uses for GIS that could benefit Shelter Island, Mr. Reich said. He also speculated that once the system is up and running, the Village of Dering Harbor and Shelter Island Heights might be interested in adding their data.

The system is already in use by a number of municipalities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

Because the system will serve so many town departments over time, the board was able to allocate money from a number of departmental budgets, he said. Working closely with Mr. Card and Police Chief James Read, Mr. Reich has been laying the groundwork for the system. He said he was optimistic it will improve town services and allow employees to spend less time searching for information and answering repetitious questions and more time on the more satisfying aspects of their jobs that require human intelligence and judgment, he said.

“There’s a lot of uses for GIS,” Mr. Reich said, while acknowledging that not all departments have signed on to the concept. “People either embrace or they resist” new technology, he said. “I’m definitely an embracer; Jay’s an embracer too,” he said, referring to Mr. Card.

Chief Read is working with Mr. Reich and Mr. Card because he wants to use GIS as an overlay that will give him an improved means of reporting statistics.

“People like to see things visually and map trends,” the chief said. But for his department, technology has already been implemented that lets officers carry out their responsibilities more efficiently and effectively, he said.

For the Police Department, the GIS system will provide a visual means of tracking and reporting statistics, the chief said. But his department has long enabled officers to scan license plates and download data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, turn out electronic tickets with accuracy and speed and maintain clear internal records.

The advantage of using an online system is that if the Island gets hit by a major storm and systems go down locally, with generator power, the CEO system can still be accessed, Mr. Reich said. Police already render assistance to those with special needs, but GIS will enable them to track those residents more easily, the chief said.