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County of Lennox & Addington uses GIS to improve organizational services

The County of Lennox and Addington relies heavily on a geographic information system, GIS, to manage and solve business problems across their many municipal departments. These range from roads & bridges, emergency management, community housing, to long-term care, and more.

Lennox and Addington (L&A) is a rural county running roughly northward in a thick line from Kingston, Ontario, up to Renfrew County. Home to some 45,000 people, L&A relies heavily on GIS to manage and solve a multiplicity of business problems across their enterprise. These range from roads & bridges, EMS, community housing, to long-term care, and more.

Ontario map showing the boundaries of the County of Lennox and Addington.

With some 130 users shared with its Municipal partners, across a range of ArcGIS cloud apps, L&A has developed everything from COVID-19 screening tools for staff and the public, to those enabling enhanced operations in social housing. In the case of the latter, a group of social services users now taps into L&A’s geospatial network of social housing data to access a variety of accurate and timely reports to better act on the metrics provided and improve customer service.

Re-homing made easier

The Social Housing Floor Plans Gallery, powered by ArcGIS StoryMaps, provides both building data and detailed individual home unit information publicly online to potential residents in search of housing. This has been especially useful during the pandemic, as previously tenants could only make in-person visits to determine if their furniture would fit in the unit and that it would otherwise suit their needs.

Screenshot of a story map showing the floorplan of a social housing complex and photo of the building.

With long wait lists and the added complexity of COVID-19 screening, in-person visits have been a tedious process for both the public and staff. But today, potential residents can view housing unit info online or download PDFs containing photos and other data they need to make informed decisions.

GIS is also helping Social Housing staff with unit turnover and building improvements. L&A centralized the data for social housing in ArcGIS, which empowers the inspection staff to collect photos, unit condition and measurements over time and spatially link the data, ensuring more efficient response and resolution to tenant damage reports.

The ArcGIS field survey application helps staff who are not traditional collectors of GIS data to communicate required maintenance activities. For example, when damage to a unit is collected in L&A’s mobile housing inspection app, Tenant Relations Officers are notified immediately in the office with a report, which includes photos and cost estimates for the repair. The information gets populated on a dashboard in real time, so there is no waiting for inspection staff to return to the office, adding speed to their operations.

Several images of a housing inspection report that includes a map of the location and photos of the housing unit.

Keeping tabs on the roads

L&A GIS Services have continued to enhance other services, too. They have deployed a tool called Public Works Roadside Operations and Asset Management, aka ROAM, that lets Public Works staff digitally log minimum maintenance standards issues, create work orders and ensure progress, all in a user-friendly environment. ROAM organizes its fieldwork and was built with ArcGIS QuickCapture, ArcGIS Survey123, ArcGIS Dashboards and ArcGIS Workforce as a solution to fulfil L&A’s mandate for meeting provincially legislated compliance in asset management.

This translates into critical day-to-day road safety and maintenance concerns being handled quickly and efficiently, as staff have detailed references to all areas for which they are responsible. This could range from whether a road has been snow-plowed, sanded or salted, to cracks in sidewalks or potholed thoroughfares. The slow old days of paper-based road patrols are gone, with GIS increasing the transparency of municipal road operations.

Public works dashboard showing the map of service locations and a reporting app with buttons to indicate the work done.

ArcGIS webhooks in ROAM alert managers when specific conditions exist. Public Works supervisors can, with a few clicks, access issues requiring their support. ArcGIS Dashboards has been of immense help in keeping up to speed on matters of vital safety. Through Dashboards, supervisors can determine whether areas under their watch have been visited, using on-demand staff reports and on-site cameras that convey video of areas of concern in real time.

“Dashboards are great at providing insights into data at a fast pace,” said Nathan Bruce, GIS analyst, County of Lennox & Addington. “Prior to this many phone calls would have been needed to get a picture of what locations are safe for staff and residents and who's been where.”

Snow removal dashboard and map with photos of the areas that are serviced.

At L&A, knowledge is more than just insight

Dispatchers, field workers and decision-makers are all realizing the ever-growing list of benefits that come with increased familiarity with GIS. L&A decision-makers can now plug in, oversee and manage all of the following:

  • Workload distribution monitoring
  • Real-time status and progress
  • Performance measures summaries and analytics
  • Exploring “big picture” metrics
  • Mine business intelligence
  • Gain operational awareness as an aid to fielding questions

Extending beyond knowledge, GIS has enabled new business users to interact with each other on a regular basis, transforming the way field staff communicate with office departments and plugging in managers to vast storehouses of business data. It’s ease-of-use has attracted faithful users to drive innovations. In fact, over the last eight years, GIS adoption grew from a single department to an enterprise system heavily utilized by many, including the Administration, Emergency Management, Property Services and Roads & Bridges departments.

A comparison image showing a few departments using GIS in 2013 versus many more departments using GIS in 2021.

Leveraging geospatial data from communities, using it toward social and community services, and engaging staff at all levels throughout the enterprise – L&A continues to drive its ArcGIS system as an expansive, powerful, and intelligent tool.

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About the Author

Desmond Khor works with multi-industry stakeholders to connect stories with opportunities. As a Marketing Manager at Esri Canada, Desmond is helping to build a stronger, more connected community around technology and the business capabilities of location intelligence.

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