Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenLACONIA — The city's Public Works Department recently met an Environmental Protection Agency mandate that it have the entire city sewer collection system digitally mapped by the end of 2013.
The mandate has been in effect since 2009 under new EPA regulations which made all municipalities in the Winnipesaukee River Basin regional sewage treatment facility co-permittees along with the state.
Laconia was able to meet that requirement nearly a year ahead of the deadline thanks to the work of Amy Hicks, a part-time employee who has been with the department since 2008 and has developed an in-house geographic information system (GIS) which has mapped not only the city's sewer system but it's water system as well.
GIS is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data and City Manager Scott Myers says that it is an increasingly important management tool for local governments and will see even wider application in the future.
''It provides the ability to get all the information on sewer, water and tax maps together in an easy to use format and there are a lot more uses for this technology in areas like planning, assessing, police, fire and recreation,'' said Myers,
Assistant Public Works Department Luke Powell, who along with Hicks gave a presentation to the City Council Monday night on the city's GIS efforts, said the city realized a substantial savings by doing the work in-house.
''We hit a gold mine when we got Amy,'' said Powell, who said Hicks has been able to put together the hardware, software and data which provides instant and easy access to information which previously took hours to track down.
''It's been very useful in managing our system. If there's a problem we can pinpoint it right away,'' Powell said.
He noted hat the city has 75 miles of sewer main, including 18 miles of gravity sewer lines over 110 years old, many of which are six-inch clay sewer lines built before the 1920s.
Powell said that in the near future the city may also be required to map its storm water system, which he said the city is fortunate in that those who designed and built the city sewer and storm drainage systems in the late 19th century kept them separate, avoiding problems which cities like Manchester are now having to deal with.
Hicks said that the present system will need a great deal of refinement before it is useful for all city departments. She said that currently she has to transfer information from the Water Department to the GIS database at Public Works by use of a flash (thumb) drive.
Myers said that ultimately the city's GIS will most likely need to be a satellite based or ''in the cloud'' so that it can be accessed remotely from tablet computers and even cellphones by city employees from multiple locations with different levels of security based on user capabilities and responsibilities.
Council members and Mayor Michael Seymour all expressed enthusiasm for the GIS system and the many uses that city departments will find for it.
NOTES: The council approved the sale of the former Laconia Police Department building at 51 Church Street to WBIN Media for $1. The purchase and sales agreement calls for the new owner to make at least $300,000 in improvements to the building and to use it for at least five years as a radio and television broadcast studio. Bill Binnie, owner of WBIN Media, plans to move WLNH radio from Gilford to the new location and to spend around $800,000 on turning it into a broadcast studio. . . . . . The council approved creation of a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district for the Weirs, which allow increased tax revenues generated by property improvements to be dedicated for use only in the TIF district area. It is the city's third TIF district. The other two are downtown Laconia and Lakeport. . . . . . The council approved by a 4-1 vote, with Ward 4 Councilor Brenda Baer opposed, a $1 million bond issue for the Huot Career Center/Laconia High School renovation project. The bond will help the city school district receive 40 percent in state building aid for a portion of the $16.8 million school building and renovation project which is not eligible for the higher 75 percent reimbursement rate for the vocational education portion. . . . . . The mayor and council praised the work of City Manager Scott Myers in his first 18 months on the job and approved a 5.2 percent pay raise which brings his salary to $100,000.