Scope of Work
New York's Adirondack Park encompasses 12 counties and 105 towns in upstate New York. Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid, and vast stretches of wilderness share the park with towns and businesses, sportsmen and women, vacationers, and year-round residents.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) plays a pivotal, often controversial, role in the life of north country communities. Its mission is to maintain the delicate balance between environmental quality and economic vitality in the region. As regulator of land use over the 3.5 million acres of privately owned land in the Park, the APA maintains tens of thousands of records about real property, natural resources, and physical and civil infrastructure.
These records are kept in filing cabinets, map trays, microfiche jackets, film canisters, boxes, closets, and a few computerized databases that, together with 50 headquarters staff, fill every inch of the building from basement to attic. Staff depend on these records every day to give advice or make decisions about proposals to buy land, construct buildings, or carry on other development projects. The information is important to lawyers, realtors, landowners and developers, researchers, and federal, state, and local governments. Organizing, finding, and using effectively so many different kinds of information has become a critical problem for both the agency and its customers.
Collecting the information needed to give an answer or make a decision often consumes much more time than the analysis of the request. Gathering existing information, rendering geographically-oriented data into a consistent scale, and moving files among different staff specialists take much more time. As a result, it takes several days to respond to a phone inquiry, weeks to make a jurisdictional determination, and months to issue a permit.
During 1994-95, the Center for Technology in Government worked with APA and several corporate and university partners to develop and evaluate a prototype system to combine document records and geographic data into a unified "electronic reference desk" that allows agency staff to point at a land parcel displayed on an electronic map and summon legal documents, other maps, project plans and related information about the property. They may find the parcel by owner name, tax parcel ID, or simple map location. The prototype gathers into one place and one format a wide variety of useful information. Using this prototype, which concentrated on data for land in Essex County, APA staff were able to identify those activities where technology would improve responsiveness and reduce operating costs. The prototype and its evaluation illustrated for the agency the financial and staff resources that would be needed to develop and implement a complete system. The project also identified significant potential for internal quality improvements and new customer services.