Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cincinnati recommends one-year renewal of CAGIS agreement

Cincinnati City administration recommends extending the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System (CAGIS) agreement for one more year, giving the participating parties time to evaluate the system.

Developed in 1995, CAGIS is a contractual agreement between the Cincinnati, Hamilton County, and Cincinnati Gas & Electric (now Duke Energy) to develop and manage a shared database of geographic and infrastructure data.

However, a recent report from the Office of the City Manager, based on a November 10 motion from the City Council's Finance Committee, said that even though the GIS system was cutting-edge at the time, its costs to create and to maintain are holding it back technologically and financially.

"Since then the IT world has changed dramatically," the report said. "Currently, most local government GIS systems are run by commercially created off-the-shelf software which have the ability to be customized for the user to some extent but are not necessarily systems that were custom designed from the ground up, which is how the current CAGIS systems were created."

The report called the three functions of CAGIS – GIS, IT support, and software development – "unsustainable".

"This is because CAGIS currently operates on a closed financial model where the non-City/County members pay a set yearly fee and the City and County split the remaining CAGIS costs 50/50; while at the same time CAGIS operates an open service model providing unlimited products, services, and IT support to all members," the report said. "Consequently, CAGIS has many project commitments but in providing services to its customers it has no concrete business plan on when or how they will be provided, much less at what cost."

City administration supports the need for a GIS function, but believes that CAGIS needs a strategic review to study the system's administrative oversight, governance structure, service and financial models.

In addition to the review, the additional year will provide time to select a new CAGIS administrator. The former administrator, Barbara Quinn, was removed by Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. earlier this year.

In the meantime, the report said that CAGIS is "automating workflows" and "performing enhancements to existing automations" for the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County agencies, and outlying communities that are part of the CAGIS consortium.

Significant attention also is being given to the migration of the permitting system from Permits Plus to new, more functional web-based software.

"Phase one of construction coordination is scheduled for completion by the end of the first quarter of 2010," the report said. "This phase will include a working system that will contain planned capital improvement projects for the Hamilton County Engineer (HCE), Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE), Duke Energy, Greater Cincinnati Water Works, and the Metropolitan Sewer District. Permitting capabilities for DOTE and HCE right-of-way management will also be incorporated."

CAGIS also is evaluating technologies that will provide better public access to CAGIS data, including countywide efforts that can assist in economic development efforts and lessen internal employee work, the report said.