Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 10, 2000

McLeod County working on computerized mapping

By Gail Lipe

Computers are making it easier to obtain information on just about anything, including the piece of property we live on. Soon people will be able to get information on a parcel of property in a few minutes instead of a few hours.

Computerized mapping is being worked on in McLeod County, not only mapping parcels of property, but also feedlot information, wetland information, addresses and road maps to begin with.

"Our department has been taking the lead on the computerized mapping for the last several years," said Rick Kjonaas, McLeod County highway engineer.

He said the maps that are being created now are customized for each department. The goal is to be able to pull the maps together as layers into a geographic information system (GIS).

The first map that was entered into the computer was the county ditch maps for the auditor's office. Linda Tomaselli, a consultant who specializes in applications of computerized mapping, developed the computerized ditch map by entering all the old ditch maps and using aerial photographs from U.S. Geographic Services.

"Records were hard to look up," said Kjonaas. He said creating one map with all the ditches on it in the computer makes it much easier to look up records.

The second map Tomaselli worked on was a map for the McLeod County Sheriff's Department. It is a map of the center line of roads in the county and rural addresses. Kjonaas said it is a good tool for assigning new addresses.

He said it also is used for the dispatchers to visualize where they are dispatching people.

Tomaselli is currently working on the parcel maps for the recorder's office. She said it should be completed by the end of the year.

The parcel map has a three-mile grid that was surveyed using a hand-held tool that works with the global positioning satellite (GPS) system. A consultant, Bolten & Menk Inc., was hired to do the GPS work.

Tomaselli took that information and the aerial photograph to create the beginning of the parcel map. Then the parcel information in the recorder's office was scanned into the computer and added to the map.

When the parcel map is completed, it will have every parcel of record on it.

Kjonaas said the goal is to have GPS coordinates on the map in a one-fourth mile grid. He recently received approval from the county board for Bolten & Menk to do additional GPS work this year south of Hutchinson in Lynn and Hassan Valley townships, and in the Winsted and Lester Prairie areas.

He said the GPS coordinates on the parcel map may help simplify parcel descriptions.

A feedlot map was developed independently of the highway department in the environmental office. Roger Berggren, McLeod County environmentalist, said it has all the feedlots in the county that have previously been identified.

Berggren received a $5,000 matching grant from the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to do a feedlot inventory. He said when the inventory began there were only 250 feedlots in McLeod County on file. Now there are 480.

The feedlot map is useful for working on zoning issues concerning the one-fourth mile setback requirement for building houses.

The feedlot map was created using the same base map as the rest of the maps. It also can be used in the GIS system.

Kjonaas said the next project for which he will be seeking approval for is for Tomaselli to work on a soils map.

A soils map was completed by the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s. Tomaselli would take the information from the soils map and enter it into the computer.

Joe Neubauer, University of Minnesota extension agent in McLeod County, said he uses the information once in a while, and it has been helpful.

The soils map can be helpful for determining the capability of crop production of the soil, how much of it to plant or the amount of rent that should be paid on a particular piece of property.

Neubauer said it also can be used to determine how much of what kind of fertilizer to use in a specific area.

Tomaselli said the soil map also can be used in the assessor's office to determine the value of property.

Hal Kirchoff, McLeod County assessor, said using the soil map would be a more scientific way to assess farmland. He said 75 percent of the counties south of McLeod County use it.

He said he has talked to counties using it for assessment, and both the farmers and assessor like it. He also said it helps because farmers know the soil is valued the same throughout the county.

Tomaselli completed a soil map for Acoma Township to demonstrate its usage. She said there are 66 categories of soil and there are subsurface soil codes for a depth of 24 inches. She said that information can be used for determining how roads are built on that soil.

Other soil codes in the map include the slope of the land and which soil erodes easily.

Each department is beginning with the same base map so all the maps can be layered together.

Kjonaas said he is working towards having a surveying and mapping department in the highway department. He recently contracted Tom Klaus as a consultant to help set up the GIS system in the county and supervise the maintenance and updating of the computerized maps.

He said Klaus will be working with Jeff Rausch, McLeod County surveyor, as co-supervisors of the project.

The surveyor is a part-time boardappointed consultant. Kjonaas said McLeod County will need a full-time surveyor if the county continues to grow.

Klaus and Rausch are the beginning of the surveying and mapping department. Kjonaas also will be hiring a graduate to maintain the system who will be the first county employee of the department. He said it will be a good place for the graduate to learn.

"We have two very qualified individuals working right now at a very reasonable amount of money," said Kjonaas.

Kjonaas is using the $75,000 that is in the surveying budget and the salary for a vacant position in engineering towards the project.

"In the process will be a lot of learning," said Kjonaas. One thing he is looking for is training on how to maintain the computerized maps for the various departments and training people in the departments to use the various applications.

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