Starkville Kiwanis receive GIS lesson

Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS Manager Toby Sanford speaks at the Starkville Kiwanis Club meeting Tuesday. Sanford gave a talk on the local applications of GIS technology, ranging from storm response to tax assessment. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

The Starkville Kiwanis Club had an opportunity to learn about geographic information system (GIS) mapping and its use locally, when Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS Manager Toby Sanford spoke.

Sanford has worked for the district for 15 years, and has overseen the GIS mapping of six of the seven counties it covers. Lowndes County is so far, the only county not mapped. It takes Sanford approximately two years to map a county if address changes are warranted.

He said the data has uses across many fronts, including making more accurate online maps, ensuring addresses are accurate and making sure tax assessors have correct property information.

“All the data that we create helps solve those kinds of problems,” Sanford said. “Why does my GPS not point to my driveway? It takes the corrected data and makes that work better.”

He explained how the technology worked.

“It takes real world locations, and shows you where they are on the planet,” Sanford said. “Everything is somewhere, and it has a set of coordinates that backs it up. This is just one aspect of the things that we do, but we go out and we map the county and city, all the structures and their true coordinates. We come out here and we map it. We get the coordinates of where it sits, and we add it to the 911 database.”

Sanford also explained his department’s response to the F4 tornado that hit Winston County and Louisville in April 2014. They were able to provide damage reports and before and after photos of every damaged property in the county to both FEMA and MEMA.

“What that allowed us to do is have 646 smart images, taken within one-and-a-half days,” Sanford said. “The direct impact to the Winston County budget known in 24 hours, paperwork completed and filled out to MEMA and FEMA within 48 hours, requests for funds processed completely within 28 days. Currently, this is the fastest storm response in the history of the state of Mississippi.”

The Golden Triangle Planning and Development District is based in Starkville and includes Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Webster and Winston counties.