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How to Choose the Best Method of GIS Data Collection for Water and Sewer Systems

Matt Warner Honored as One of Surveying’s Top Professionals

Matt WarnerMatt Warner has been honored by XYHT magazine as one of surveying’s bright young stars. He is listed as an Honorable Mention in the magazine’s January cover story on the top 40 geospatial industry professionals under 40.

The feature highlights young professionals from around the world who are pushing the boundaries of the profession toward new levels of sophistication and inspiring a new generation of leaders. The list includes people from 19 countries around the world of very diverse backgrounds in private consulting firms, government agencies, and technology companies. Many of them have advanced degrees and are active in non-profit organizations that promote the profession worldwide.

Warner himself has a bachelor’s degree in surveying from The Pennsylvania State University and is a member of the Pennsylvania State Geospatial Coordinating Board, an appointed commission from the governor. He is also an affiliate member of the National Society for Professional Surveyors as a member of both the New York and Pennsylvania societies of professional land surveyors. In addition, he is a member of Penn State University’s industrial advisory committee for the surveying engineering program.

As the regional manager of HRG’s Geomatics Service Group, Warner has amassed vast expertise in the new technologies that are yielding ever higher levels of accuracy in the profession. He has presented at numerous conferences, tradeshows, and seminars on concepts associated with improving the accuracy of GIS using sophisticated data collection methods. Through the years, he has been a strong advocate for how technology can gather the most accurate, high quality data while improving the safety of surveyors and reducing the impact of surveying on facility users (for example, limiting the closure of roads being surveyed).

“Matt Warner is definitely a leader in the surveying field and an inspiration to the many surveying professionals here at HRG,” says the firm’s Geomatics Service Group Director Howard Hodder. “He is committed to delivering the highest quality data for our clients and works tirelessly on their behalf. I’m so happy to see him recognized this way alongside so many other great professionals.”

ABOUT XYHT MAGAZINE

XYHT is a North American publication with a global focus on geospatial positioning and the many industries it impacts. Formerly published under the name Professional Surveyor, the magazine derives its name from the coordinates that form the basis of geospatial data: x refers to left-right data points, y refers to fore-aft, H refers to up-down (or orthometric height) and t refers to time. This new name is symbolic of the changing focus of the magazine from just land surveying to all industries that rely on precise data on spatial location, including hydrography, applied geography, 3D imaging, and GNSS. (Even smart cars will rely on geospatial information identifying the centerline of the roadway and the location of buildings and other features that run alongside it.) As we move into the future of smart technology, geospatial data will be the baseline underlining it all, and XYHT magazine will be there covering its development. Learn more at www.xyht.com.

ABOUT HRG

Originally founded in 1962, Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

Howard Hodder Named One of Central PA’s Top Forty Under 40

Howard HodderThe Central Penn Business Journal named Howard Hodder, Jr. to its 22nd annual Forty Under 40 list, which honors individuals for their commitment to business growth, professional excellence and the Central Pennsylvania community.  He and the other honorees will receive their award at a banquet at Hilton Harrisburg on November 21.

Hodder is the director of geomatics at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., overseeing a staff of surveyors and GIS professionals throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio. He is also a certified GIS Professional and has a master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems from The Pennsylvania State University.

During his 18 years at HRG, he has advanced his career from an entry-level GIS specialist to the corporate-wide leader of the service group, by consistently expanding the firm’s technical capabilities, and surpassing sales goals. He was named an associate of the firm in 2006.

Hodder’s commitment to professional excellence is evident in his pursuit of continuing education as well as his active participation in industry groups such as the PA State Geospatial Coordinating Board, the PA Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (PA MAPPS), various university and college curriculum advisory groups, the PA State GIS Conference planning committee, and others.

This commitment to the geospatial industry is only matched by his commitment to the Central PA community. Hodder is a graduate of the Leadership Harrisburg Area’s Community Leadership Series program, which is designed to prepare local leaders to address the challenges and opportunities facing the region. He also coaches youth soccer and softball and is a vice president on the Cumberland Valley Softball Association board.

“I’m truly honored that the Central Penn Business Journal chose me to be included with this year’s class alongside so many talented and accomplished individuals,” Hodder says.

The Central Penn Business Journal has been honoring the area’s leading young professionals with its Forty Under 40 list for 22 years.  This year’s award recipients will be featured in a special supplement to the Central Penn Business Journal on November 25.

 

ABOUT HRG

Originally founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

 

ALTA Land Title Changes Taking Effect

by Michael Kreiger, P.L.S.

Surveyors

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) have recently released their final approved revisions to the ALTA Land Title Survey Standards.  These standards will become effective on February 23, 2016.

How will the new 2016 ALTA Land Title Survey Standards impact your projects?

The impact is more evolutionary than revolutionary: minor tweaks to enhance the reassurance a land title survey provides a buyer or lender.

While the 2011 standards were a major rewrite of previous standards, the 2016 version is mainly just a series of clarifications that help real estate professionals and developers better understand the information the surveys provide (and don’t provide).

For example, the new standards clearly define the surveyor’s role in researching title, property records, easements, etc., and the role of the survey purchaser in providing that information. Similarly, the new standards require that a zoning letter or report be provided to the surveyor before they can address zoning issues like zoning classification, setback requirements, height and floor space area restrictions, and parking requirements.

More significantly, the new standards clarify what a surveyor can show regarding wetlands on a Land Title Survey. The presence of wetlands can have a major impact on the way a site is developed, so it is understandably a major interest to those purchasing a property.  In the past, some have mistakenly believed that a survey which reported no observation of wetland markers indicated there were no wetlands present on the site. However, only a qualified biologist can certify that a site is free of wetlands; a surveyor merely reports the observation of wetland delineation markers.

Though this fact can be inferred from the 2011 standards, which included the location of wetlands “as delineated by appropriate authorities,” the 2016 revision is more clear-cut:

“If there has been a field delineation of wetlands conducted by a qualified specialist hired by the client, the surveyor shall locate any delineation markers observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork and show them on the face of the plat or map. If no markers were observed, the surveyor shall so state.”

Since this item is an optional item in Table A, anyone purchasing a property who is interested in the presence of wetlands on the site should hire a qualified specialist to investigate them and specifically negotiate this item into their survey contract. (Some firms, like HRG, have qualified environmental professionals on staff to provide these wetland investigations services as part of the survey.)

In some cases, the 2016 revisions ensure that the information provided in the survey documents is more accurate and complete. For example:

  • Observed utility features are now mandatory, rather than an optional item in Table A.
  • Surveyors will now merely indicate the observation of substantial areas of refuse at a site, rather than being asked to designate the site as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill. (Again, this is an optional item in Table A, so anyone requesting this information should negotiate it into their survey contract.)

When you purchase a land title survey, you are essentially purchasing peace of mind: that you clearly understand exactly what you will own and what ways you will be able to use the site once it’s purchased. The new 2016 ALTA Land Title Survey Standards enhance that peace of mind by making sure surveyors have the information they need to accurately characterize a site and that the information they provide in the final survey documents is clearly understood by the client. The revisions contained in these new standards tighten the language and remove any confusion buyers, lenders, and insurers might have had about what the survey documents show. They also ensure a uniform level of accuracy in the information the surveyors provide and the methodology they use to gather and report results.  By doing so, they strengthen the reassurance these documents offer a buyer about the likelihood of regulatory burdens, liabilities, or potential claims to the property by another party.

If you have questions about the new 2016 ALTA Land Title Survey Standards, please contact Michael Kreiger by email at mKreiger@hrg-inc.com or by phone at (717) 564-1121.


Michael Kreiger, P.L.S., Kreigerhas 23 years of experience as a surveyor, including ample experience completing ALTA Land Title Surveys for commercial and industrial properties. Other survey experience includes topographic boundary surveys, construction stakeout, and aerial ground control.

HRG is a full service consulting firm with capabilities in surveying, environmental compliance (including wetland investigations), permitting, site design, and construction inspection and administration.

Asset Management: What Does It Mean to You?

by: Howard Hodder, GISP

Processed and cleaned sewage

This article was first published on the Informed Infrastructure website and is published here with their permission.

The need for an asset management program is beginning to resonate with municipalities throughout the country. Many municipal employees are finding themselves responsible for researching and developing a solution that will meet the unique infrastructure needs for their communities now and in the future.

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, asset management broadly defined, refers to any system that monitors and maintains things of value to an entity or group. It may apply to both tangible assets such as buildings and to intangible concepts such as intellectual property and goodwill. Asset management is a systematic process of operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets cost-effectively.

Alternative views of asset management in the engineering environment are:

the practice of managing assets to achieve the greatest return (particularly useful for productive assets such as plant and equipment),

AND

the process of monitoring and maintaining facilities systems, with the objective of providing the best possible service to users (appropriate for public infrastructure assets).

Does your infrastructure make the grade?
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has developed a report card for America’s aging infrastructure. And overall, the average grade received was a D+.

Using this information as a benchmark, it is crucial that municipalities make the time to determine whether a comprehensive rating of their own infrastructure features could be calculated or is even feasible. Beyond just calculating a score, other questions for consideration include:

  • Is there a strategic plan to improve, maintain or replace assets in order to raise the rating?
  • Can the plan be implemented and goals achieved in coordination with the available budget and timeframe? How can more be done with less?
  • What about staff years of experience and turnover of those soon to retire?
  • How can decisions/spending/communications be more transparent with the public/customers and/or the decision/budget makers?

Asset management is a complex topic spanning multiple disciplines and industries, each with their own unique definition. Municipalities have a lot to consider to best position themselves to implement a successful solution for their infrastructure assets.

For infrastructure asset management, there is a combination of financial, economic, engineering, and other management practices applied to physical assets with the objective of providing the required level of service in the most cost-effective manner. It includes a life cycle approach from planning, to data collection and analysis, design, construction, operations, maintenance/repair/replace of physical and infrastructure assets.

Comprehensive asset management systems enable local government officials to catalog essential data that helps to forecast, plan and budget for necessary infrastructure improvements. This data includes, but is not limited to accurate locations of all municipal owned/maintained assets such as manholes, valves, hydrants, inlets, pipes, headwalls, outfalls, and street lights; inventories and conditions of municipal owned roadways, bridges, signs, traffic lights, trees, etc.; dates when infrastructure was constructed, installed, inspected, and repaired; maintenance and rehabilitation planning and expenditures; and the value of your infrastructure (useful for the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 34 required reporting for local governments).

Choosing an asset management solution
Once the value and reason for infrastructure asset management has been established, the next step involves the process of developing, selecting, and implementing an asset management solution. There are many solutions providers and possibilities, with varying functionalities, and large cost differences. However, there are a few simple factors that stand true across the board. The right approach is to plan first, collect and validate your data, and though the technologies and processes may change, the overall project will never end.

Plan First
The need to plan first, and plan well, cannot be stressed enough — do the homework, perform due diligence, ask questions, and exhaust resources.

Planning is the most important step in any asset management solution development process. Spending the time, effort, and monies on this task will pay dividends down the line. Remember, planning helps to define the understanding of the project and will assist with the development and selection of the required building blocks necessary for implementation of a solution with both short- and long-term positive returns on your investment (ROI). The planning stage guides the decision-making and purchasing processes to maximize the ROI with factors associated with time and the reduction of re-work, and ultimately, finances and budget.

Planning is the stage where you get to ask questions. Not just questions of what solutions are available on the market and what they cost or how long it will take to install, but difficult organizational questions. Questions like: What data is currently available? What format(s) is that data in? What are the short- and long-term goals? Who and how will staff and/or even the public need or want to interact with the selected solution? What can really be afforded now versus what can be expanded later? Is there flexibility to start small and advance as the needs dictate and budget allows? Questions can go on and on, and depending on the answers to those initial questions; additional inquiries will be and should be completed.

Absolutely essential to the planning process is the involvement of all levels of staff. Do not just ask the boss who assigned the task to pick and implement a solution. It is essential to take the time and make the effort to query the potential end users of the proposed system. This will provide insight on what major functions the system needs to be able to perform, as well as what data is available for population/migration. Buy-in by municipal staff is crucial to solution implementation and its overall success. Change management is extremely important and critical, and it will directly correlate to the final success or failure for the selected solution.

During the planning stages, municipalities must consider many different factors such as asset inventory, existing and future planned programs (i.e. hydrant flushing or pavement management), roles and responsibilities of the “Who?” will be responsible for “What?”

Data is King
The most important component of any asset management system is the data. Of course, there are the hardware and software components, and the end users’ processes and expectations, but the most important, and often most costly element, is the data. Without the data, the other components are lifeless. And without quality data, analysis results and decisions made upon those results become incomplete and incorrect, and can potentially lead to other problems. Like the old saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

When most think of technology solution implementation, they look at all the bells and whistles, and see all the great reports and analysis that can be provided back to the end user. These are certainly good, but without accurate, precise, and up-to-date information, the fancy tools, processes, and outputs are mostly useless. Running an analysis and getting a report using incorrect or outdated information does not only produce incorrect results for decision making, but more catastrophic ramifications could result depending upon the magnitude of that decision.

It can be agreed that the quality of data is important, so is it a surprise that data development, data collection, input and/or migration, along with data maintenance is the most expensive piece? The question that then needs to be answered is “What is good enough?” Many factors must be considered: what must be known; how accurate do the datasets need to be; what will be the current and future uses of this information; who should compile the information; what does the schedule look like; and what is the budget? Unfortunately, budget most often drives the final product outcome, which can cause end users to reduce data quality to meet quantity and time frames.

Never Ending
Taking on the task of developing, implementing, and utilizing an asset management solution is a continuous process. In order for it to be successful, municipalities must realize that the process should never end. As stated before, data is constantly changing, asset information is being updated/added/edited, and technology is continuously advancing.

An asset management solution can start small with a simple feature inventory and condition assessment, and then be cultivated over time with various additional integrated solutions, processes, and analytical capabilities, adding value and efficiencies as needed and budget dollars become available.

The infrastructure asset life cycle is recurring – new/updated projects require planning that leads to data collection for accurate analysis in order to design and construct the system that needs to be operated in order to fulfill a requirement. Through operations of the infrastructure system, other potential projects are required to maintain, replace, enhance, or impact/change the system as a whole. In other words, one project leads to the next.

It may take only a few months or years to complete a project from planning to construction, but the true cost/benefit of the project is seen in the operation/maintenance phase over decades.

Asset management is more than just a piece of software and/or hardware that can be purchased off the shelf. It is a complex combination of spatial inventories and work management processes, tracking, and analysis, with a long line of cause and effect outcomes. The use of a successful asset management solution over time (i.e. additional data input, updates, historical recording, etc.) will reduce, not eliminate, the requirements of reactive maintenance of infrastructure.

By focusing the abilities of data analysis and historic record, and increasing the abilities of forecasting project plans over multiple years, you can achieve more with less or at least be able to defend why monies need to be spent. The analysis adds transparency to the public and to elected officials. In other words, asset management can help reduce and/or decrease the surprises of potential catastrophic infrastructure failures and budget overruns, ultimately providing the best quality service to the citizens of the municipality and general public.

Sometime getting started is the most intimidating and difficult task to overcome. There is no time like the present to take action towards improving your municipality’s infrastructure grade.


HodderHoward Hodder, GISP, is the manager of HRG’s Geomatics Service Group.  As such, he oversees the delivery of surveying and geographic information system services to all of our clients firm-wide.  He has extensive experience in asset management for municipal clients, particularly in the areas of sanitary and storm sewer systems.  Contact Howard with your questions about asset management and GIS.

Howard S. Hodder, Jr. MGIS, GISP, Promoted to Director of Geomatics

Howard S. Hodder, Jr. MGIS, GISP, was promoted to Director of Geomatics. Howard holds a Masters degree in GIS from The Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelors degree in Geography from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He joined HRG in the Lancaster office in October 1998 as a GIS Specialist in the Survey Service Group. During his career with HRG’s Survey/Geomatics Service Group, Howard also served in the role of GIS Regional Service Group Manager and, most recently, as GIS Specialty Service Group Manager. Howard was named an Associate in 2006.

As a technical director, Howard will be responsible for maintaining general technical project standards, executing Quality Management Plans, and collaborating with the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Marketing Manager in developing marketing strategies.

 

ABOUT HRG

Originally founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Kreiger Appointed to A Position with Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors

HRG’s Michael D. Kreiger, PLS, was appointed as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors’ (PSLS) Board of Directors. Kreiger has committed to serving the profession of surveying by accepting this leadership role. He will now be instrumental in advancing the state-wide organization’s mission to provide education, legislative involvement, and enhancement of public awareness related to the profession.

Currently, Kreiger serves as the firm’s survey regional service group manager of the Eastern Region, leading a team of 14 surveyors and technicians. In this capacity, he is responsible for management of all survey work and mapping products generated from this region, including topographic and boundary surveys, construction stakeout, and aerial ground control surveys for private and public sector clients. He has been with HRG since 2007.

Kreiger has an associate’s degree in surveying technology from The Pennsylvania State University and is licensed as a professional land surveyor in Pennsylvania and Delaware. In addition, his role on an Army Corps of Engineers’ project involving an 83-mile coastal erosion prevention survey in Long Island, New York was highlighted in a feature article in Point of Beginning Magazine (POB).

“We are proud of Mike’s recent appointment to the PSLS board,” says Eric Orndorff, M.S, P.L.S., HRG’s Technical Director of Survey and GIS Services. “This role is demonstrative of his passion for promoting and fostering public understanding of the profession.”

 

ABOUT HRG

Originally founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.