A new GIS specialist will join Macomb Township’s community staff in March, a position that department heads say will give residents greater access to community geographic information.
On November 30, during a regular meeting, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees hired Molly Marks for 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. The interviews took place on November 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 counselor in the community. Tabaka said Marks’ effective hire date will be in March 2023, pending successful completion of the offer requirements. There is also a six-month trial period.
Trustee Frank Cusumano questioned whether Marks met the job requirements, citing requirements as three years of directly relevant GIS experience or an associate’s degree and five years of directly relevant GIS experience. Tabaka said the committee, including the Fishbeck employees, thought Marks was efficient in getting the job done and were pleased with her.
“She’s been doing this since 2020. We’re going to 2023, so it would be three years. She had four months while she was in college, she did some stuff in Yuma, Ariz. She also spent four months in New Mexico,” Tabaka said.
Treasurer Leon Drolet said the hiring will bring the parish’s full-time employment to 120.
“But actually, the employment growth in our community during that period was less than the community’s population growth for most of those years,” Drolet said. “I think at this point we, the community, have done a pretty good job of ensuring that the hiring we are making is prudent, the hiring we are making is justified and that we are very cautious in our decisions to hire additional staff. “
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 provides a detailed look at municipal infrastructure such as water and sewage systems, zoning, easements, site maps and more. Supervisor Frank Viviano asked Bocks and Van Tiflin to explain why the new position is unique, what the role will entail, and why the community decided to hire someone to perform these roles in-house. Van Tiflin said the community set up a GIS when it went through its SAW grant. Grants for the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) program are awarded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“Essentially, with this grant funding, we have mapped the entire sewerage system. The municipality has since mapped the entire water system,” said Van Tiflin. “So we’re in the process of adding that information as new subs come online. The DPW goes in all the time and inspects the sewers. They’ve approved contracts with various TV and cleaning teams, they do manhole inspections, all those things, all those records are then taken and linked, in that mapping system, that’s essentially what a GIS is. And so you can go to a specific location on the map, click on that feature and get all sorts of information.”
Van Tiflin said GIS is used internally by various community departments and could also be used externally by the public.
“We use it quite a lot, the DPW uses it a lot more and they hope to use it a lot more over time,” said Van Tiflin. “It can also be simplified and put on the website, for example, for residents to click their own packet and get all sorts of information that they might otherwise have to call and speak to the staff here. They want, you know, blueprints for their house or they want their tax information and what their development looks like on a particular lot. They can go to GIS, click a few links and all of this information will appear on their screen. So it’s more efficient for us to use it, but we also hope that with this new mindset we’ll eventually be able to make it available to residents as well.”
A Fishbeck consultant is currently doing GIS work for the community, primarily to maintain data, Van Tiflin said. The new employee will allow the community to expand GIS, he said.
“So we looked at it, we can have someone come in and do most of this work ourselves for basically the same amount of money that we’re spending,” Van Tiflin said. “But we also hope that we can extend this to other departments so that we have more information that is readily available and easier to use. No need to go down to the basement, find the information, copy it, scan it, email it to someone. It’s correct, available, and you can take it off your screen and send it to anyone who asks for the information. So that’s basically what this position would do.”
Van Tiflin estimates that the municipality currently spends approximately $8,000 just on GIS maintenance with an outside consultant.
“My experience as a consultant before I came here is that successful GIS use in a community really depends on having someone in the house to turn to when you have problems,” said Van Tiflin.
Viviano said the hire is another step in the municipality’s plan to digitize all records and once this is fully implemented across all departments it will be a tool for all to use.
“One of the things we discussed early on about this position was that eventually even the building authority inspectors could be there and do an inspection, pull up the history of the records they have, the fire can use it as well, same way, DPW, planning,” Viviano said.
Bocks said the GIS will integrate all zoning and allow residents to know if new development is moving up next to them or if there is development potential on vacant lots.
“You can calculate what is allowed, what development would allow to be built or built next door,” said Bocks. “You can find out where, if there’s an easement on your property, if there’s any flood plains, all that information will be in there.”
Clerk Kristi Pozzi, who attended the meeting remotely from Mount Pleasant, where she was taking a mandatory Clerk Masters Academy course, said her office made extensive use of the Fishbeck GIS specialist during the redistribution.
“We must continue to refer to them as we attempt to use QR codes that allow our voters to see where they are registered to vote using the map they have created, and we expect to see them in January.” again, we must believe that the counties will increase to 4,999 registered voters, which will require us to redraw our maps in our counties and boundary lines again. So we’ve used them extensively over the past year and expect to use them again in the future, so it’s been a benefit for our department as well,” said Pozzi.