Ten years from now, city of Napa employees will likely ask themselves how they ever did their jobs without the new mapping technology that is coming their way.
The Napa City Council unanimously approved a contract this week with a geographic information system (GIS) company that will enable the city to map the exact location of every manhole cover, utility pole, water pipe and other asset.
Napa has used mapping software from Esri, based in Redlands, for at least 10 years, primarily in the engineering and public works departments, said Scott Nielsen, the city’s information technology services manager. The city has paid about $15,000 annually.
Now the city plans to use the software for all of its operations at a cost of about $55,000 in each of the next three years.
“That software will go enterprise wide,” Nielsen said. “It will be on every laptop in every vehicle that is out in the field, it will be on iPhones, Droids, it is what everyone sees in the field as well as in the repository back in (the information technology department).”
Once the contract is signed, employees can begin mapping the city using information provided by satellites to find the exact coordinates of every asset in the city, whether it be a pipe valve, a water meter or a street tree, staff said.
Water General Manager Joy Eldredge said she is excited about the capabilities the technology presents. It will reduce the amount of time it takes her department to respond to an event like a water main break and isolate the problem area, she said.
“If a leak occurs, we scramble, we rely on knowledge of people who have been operating the system for years and paper records,” she said.
Once the data is collected and stored in the city’s database, staff will be able to know the exact depth of every pipe and can find which valve needs to be turned to shut off water in any particular area in the event of a water break, Eldredge said.
Crews worked nearly all of September to repair a pipe broken at the intersection of Solano and West Pueblo avenues that paper records indicated was buried 30 feet below ground, Eldredge said. Crews found it to be located about 15 feet deep. Using the mapping software, the city will know the location of its assets within centimeters, she said.
“It can be someone’s first day on the job and they can look on the map and see where they are and where the asset is,” Eldredge said.
Nielsen said the software will be used to locate assets throughout the city, not just in the water division. He said it is easy to use, so any employee can take advantage of it.
“It allows a person in the field to pull up their map, pull up a particular segment of a pipe and learn more about it,” he said. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is worth a million words.”
Eldredge said staff have already begun taking a hand-held device with them when they go to jobs so they can collect data. Other staff will take the devices out and canvas the city to gather the location of assets electronically.
The information will then go to one central database where it can be accessed as necessary, Nielsen said. Napa County uses the same software, so the data compiled in the city is compatible and could be used by either entity.
The mapping data will serve as the framework for the city’s asset management software system, which will be developed after the assets are located, Nielsen said. Then, the coordinates of any given asset will be available in one place.