I called, and was advised that I was welcome to the GIS data, that I could select any or all of the list of GIS layers that I would be emailed, and an apology for the frustrations of the last couple of days.
I politely thanked him, and that was the end of the conversation.
Judging by the level of officialdom that I spoke with, I'm fairly confident that it will happen just that way.
UPDATE Friday, 29 Jan:
Received this email late this afternoon...
Dear Mr. Merriman,
As per your request, I am sending you an Excel spreadsheet that provides you with a list of the GIS related data that we have available. There are several tabs on the spreadsheet with different types of GIS information. Below is an overview of what is in each tab:
1) SDE_Data is the ArcSDE geodatabase (GDB) containing many of our primary base map data layers. This includes data imported from Yellowstone County and the State of Montana.
2) Geodatabases_MDB is a list of personal geodatabases which uses Microsoft Access format. Many of these are working or draft datasets, and may or may not have resulted in the output of a final version, but we keep them for reference.
3) PW_ROWAssets contains Public Works non-utility right-of-way assets such as curbs and gutters, sidewalks, signs, streetlights, traffic signals, storm drains, etc. Storm drains are a work in progress and are not ready for export, except for a high level view. This data has been provided to consultants working with the City.
4) PW_Utilities is the utilities infrastructure. This is a work in progress, though the sanitary sewer data is mostly complete. The water system is nearing completion. In addition to underground pipe are manholes, pumping stations, reservoirs, physical plant sites, intake and discharge points, lift stations, pumps, electrical vaults, transformers, force mains, and a wide variety of other features.
As Assistant City Administrator McCandless explained to you, this is the first large scale request we have had for our GIS data. Please review the list of GIS data on the enclosed spreadsheet and hopefully this will help you to identify the GIS data that you are interested in obtaining from the City of Billings. We look forward to receiving your request and providing you with the information. Having said this, I must tell you that we have not fully reviewed the list to determine if any of the GIS data does NOT qualify as public record due to privacy, security, and public safety issues. We will be doing this review soon. We will be sure to prioritize the review of the data you request so that we can fulfill your request as quickly as we can.
Thank-you for your patience while we work through the process of providing you with the information that you are requesting.
For what purpose would you use the GIS information for? That's some heavy information that the normal joe blow citizen wouldn't need to know. Just curious is all.
First of all, GIS information is not "some heavy information", by and of itself. At its most basic, it's simply a kind of map. For a city government, for example, different GIS "layers" (like transparencies for overhead projectors) will show different important features -- the location of water lines of different sizes, shutoff valves, gas lines, sewer lines of different sizes, fire hydrants, and so on.
Whether the normal Joe Blow citizen would "need" it is open to debate, wouldn't you say? If Joe Blow is thinking of installing poles for a volley ball net on his property, knowing if/where there are water or gas lines running through his back yard might prove useful, don't you think?
As for what I'll use the GIS information FOR... well, I'm just curious, for starters. The city of Billings has already gone through the time and trouble and expense of collecting the data, and I'd like to get an idea of what's what and where. What I'm thinking to do is simply a different kind of citizen involvement -- surely that can't be a bad thing, can it?
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