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News 2003

December, 2003

We received St. Clairsville's updated house numbering data in shape file format from Shelley Fortney this month.  It is being entered into 911's house numbering file.

A demonstration was given December 18 to various county departments of various GIS web sites in Ohio.  Jason Davenport of Draft-Co, Martins Ferry, gave an online tour of mapping in Washington, Franklin and Summit Counties, and also of the Cities of Springfield and Findlay.  The demonstration was the most part of the bi-monthly GIS meeting.  Representatives from EMA, E-911, Soil & Water, Sanitary Sewer, Treasurer, Auditor, Board of Elections and Engineer's Offices were in attendance.

November, 2003

This is Geography Awareness Week, and November 19, 2003 was GIS Day worldwide.  At last year’s GIS Day, we announced the availability of parcel data online.  For this year’s GIS Day, we are announcing the availability of the county’s 2001 digital orthophotography online!  A map of the county is presented, superimposed with the grid of 5000 foot square tiles.  Users can click on a tile for download (4 MB each), or zoom in to see the aerial at a 1:5000 scale or smaller.  See the Products page for the link.  We have also added two enhancements to the online parcel database program.  One is the addition of the feature to allow users to search for parcels by subdivision.  The subdivision name can be entered in a search box, and a list of parcels in that subdivision is returned.  A second feature is the addition of a hyperlink to the drawing name for a particular parcel.  This will display the scanned tax map in pdf format for that parcel.  A fast Internet connection is recommended for these options, as scanned files can range in size from 300-800 KB.

The availability of parcel data and aerials is made possible with the help of Draft-Co of Martins Ferry and First Internet Service of St. Clairsville.  Draft-Co has hosted our parcel data on their server at First.  First has also assisted the GIS Office by overcoming problems with slow Internet connectivity in Lloydsville.  Dial-up connection speeds of 28.8 were the best available, making Windows updates and other downloads for multiple computers impractical.  Knowing DSL would never be available due to distance from a phone central office, First beta-installed a satellite dish for downloads.  This service is working great, and we thank First for helping make the slow-connectivity problem a thing of the past.


October, 2003

Mapping of rural house numbers is now 77% complete.


September, 2003

Mapping of addressable buildings has been the focus over the summer.  Over 60% of houses with five-digit house numbers –about 10,700 - have been mapped so far.  Best wishes to my faithful summer helper Clayton Hochstrasser as he heads to Ohio State next week.  Without his diligence, the progress we enjoy would not have been made.

The 13th Annual Ohio GIS Conference is next week.  This Conference is well worth attending.  Knowledge presented, if heeded and applied, can save many times over the cost of attendance.

The Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio Fall Seminar is October 2 and 3 in Lima, Ohio.  One featured speaker is Wendy Lathrop, who has written numerous articles over the years for Professional Surveyor magazine.  Many of her articles deal with flood zone mapping.  Another interesting session will be on railroad history, geometry and mapping, presented by Mike Buettner.  PLSO’s web site can be found at

Stormwater management is going to be a big mapping issue.  It was obvious to those who attended a meeting by URS September 9 at the Roscoe Garage that GIS is the tool to be used in this task of mapping outfalls and sewer treatment systems.  The consultants referred to providing location data to our “GIS group” - which so far is a “group” of one!  I guess I won’t run out of work for a long time.


August, 2003

House numbering mapping continues. Now over 50% of rural house numbers have been mapped.


July, 2003

All Belmont County tax maps are now online!  John Parkinson and summer employee Doug Morgan have scanned the remaining section maps, converted them to Adobe pdf format and uploaded them.  I updated the web page links.

This represents an intermediate step in having parcel mapping available online.  Hopefully, the availability of online maps will save many people a trip to the courthouse.  Check it out at  New scans could be uploaded each summer depending on the availability of summer employees.  This would match the paper tax map update schedule of once a year.

On Friday July 11 I visited Emergitech, Inc. in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, along with our E-911 administrative staff.  We discussed mapping of buildings with their programmer and map technician.  We are on the right track, matching every addressable building polygon with its corresponding house number.  We learned this is the best and most accurate method for finding houses.  A second method involves geocoding, wherein a house location is estimated based on a given house number, and a route segment with addressing ranges specified at its beginning and ending points.  We anticipate creating a centerline layer after the house numbering is done.  In the meantime, we may be able to use street data from GDT which we received as part of a grant from ESRI and NACo in early 2002.

About 36% of rural house numbers have been mapped to date.  Clayton Hochstrasser and myself have been busy working on rural portions of the northeast part of the county.  We hope to continue focusing on this task to expedite this important part of any GIS.


June, 2003

On May 27, 28 and 29 John Parkinson and I monitored GPS receivers at the Lloydsville Garage and Nelson Field in Bellaire as part of the National Geodetic Survey’s Federal Base Network (FBN)/Cooperative Base Network (CBN) reobservation.  Work in Ohio was conducted over a five week period from late April to the end of May during 5-1/2 hour blocks of time as specified by NGS.  Southeast Ohio was assigned the 9:00 am-2:30 pm and 3:30 pm-9:00 pm time segments.  John and I worked the later shift May 27, and the earlier periods May 28 and 29.  June 2 was assigned as a catch-all day in the event of trouble, but fortunately we had no problems to require observing that day as well.

Dual-frequency receivers were used on 2 meter fixed height tripods.  Each setup was checked every 15 minutes for proper logging and leveling, with a note of the weather (meteorological equipment was not required).  Digital photos – one close-up, one at eye level, and one with surrounding background - were taken of each site to be included in the data submission to NGS.  Data will be processed by NGS for inclusion in a new geodetic datum to be released probably in 2005.  These monuments will give Belmont County known local points on the new coordinate system for future surveys.

On June 2 Clayton Hochstrasser started work in the GIS Office.  Clayton is a graduate of Bellaire High School and is attending Ohio State University in Electrical Engineering this fall.  He is helping with house numbering mapping.  His superb computer skills are proving valuable in working with databases, AutoCAD and ArcView.  Clayton enjoys playing guitar, and has recorded music on his own computer at home.  He also plays in a band.  Thanks to the Commissioners for making him available.

May, 2003

There is a country song that says there’s a Wal-Mart where the drive-in used to be.  That’s just about the case for Belmont County.  Aerial photography from 1950 has been converted to MrSID format.  The St. Clairsville drive-in is clearly visible in the 1950 image.  The 2001 image shows the Plaza with Wal-Mart, Kroger’s, Sam’s, Lowe’s and other stores. The CD can be purchased from the County Engineer's Office for $5.

The 1950 images are photo enlargements and not orthophotos, so some distortion is unavoidable.  Some areas are off several hundred feet and edge matching of the 142 images is not possible. Nevertheless, the images are useful for seeing changes in the last half-century. The images are referenced to the State Plane Coordinate System, Ohio South Zone, and can be compared to the new aerials quite easily with GIS software.

Since last month, more scanned tax maps have been added to the GIS web site.  Township lots are now available in pdf format.  Also, ten foot contour data can be downloaded by township in shape file format.  House numbering of building footprints is continuing in Mead and Pultney Townships.  We are close to 25% of rural records being numbered.

On April 22 NGS conducted a training workshop for GPS observations taking place this month across the State of Ohio.  Our scheduled observation times are for 9:00 am – 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm – 9:00 pm May 27-30, with June 2-6 as make-up days in case of very bad weather or equipment malfunction.  On May 15 -16 ESRI sponsored an Intelligent Land Record Management Conference at Deer Creek.  Software extensions were demonstrated, and Greene and Delaware Counties discussed their current migration to the geodatabase.

April, 2003

    The house numbering project continues.  First passes for Warren, Goshen, Wayne, Washington, Smith and York Townships have been completed.  This represents about 20% of the rural house number records.  Mead and Flushing Townships are now being tackled.

    More information has been uploaded to the GIS web site.  Scans of municipal tax maps have been added to the tax map page.  Plans are underway to add scans of the lots by township.

    A GIS display was among those of several governmental offices in the courthouse hallway during National County Government Week, April 7-11.  The exhibits were manned on April 9 for the benefit of passersby.  The GIS Office had a visit from Guernsey County and the City of Cambridge April 15 concerning our mapping progress.  Jefferson County stopped by April 4 for a short visit, also.

    Software upgrades have been received for ArcView 8.3 and AutoCAD Raster Design 2004, with AutoCAD Map 2004 expected soon.  Peak Geo-Design of New Philadelphia, Ohio has been issued approval to georeference scanned 1950 black-and-white aerial photography to the approximate state plane grid.  This will be useful for comparing changes in the last half century.

March, 2003

            Maps have been plotted for all municipal areas at a 1”=100’ or 1”=200’ scale to assist in the house numbering project.  Washington Township has been reviewed for matching buildings to house numbers.

            Our first attempt at mapping water and sewer features was conducted March 11 in the BelCapre area west of Bellaire.  A fire hydrant was used as a base station with an Ashtech Z-Xtreme dual frequency GPS receiver gathering satellite data while a Trimble GeoExplorer 3 was used for roving to manholes, valves and hydrants.  Data was then post-processed and converted to our mapping grid.  An approximate location was also determined for the concrete monument at Nelson Field in Bellaire in March. 

            A planimetrics page has been added to the GIS web site.  Shape files have been created by township, zipped and uploaded for buildings, hydrography and centerlines.  Those who have ArcExplorer or other GIS software can download, unzip and view these mapping features.  ODOT’s township boundaries for Belmont County are also available at this page.  These shape files fit right on top of each other and the digital orthophotos available on CD.  If more web disk space can be obtained, ten foot contour shape files and the aerial photography could be made available for the public via the Internet.

February, 2003

I saw a notice in the newspaper recently about the availability of green house numbering signs with white reflective numbers.  So I ordered a couple for family members by calling the Belmont County Squad Officers Association at (740)676-5086.  I received friendly, prompt service and delivery, and now I have some installation to do.

I am working on relating the house number to the building ID number in the digital county mapping.  I can see that there is going to be a need for field verification in some instances.  It surely would be helpful if residents had a house number posted for verification purposes, and more importantly, for emergency services finding the correct house in time of need.  So I urge all rural residents to get a house numbering sign installed if a sign is not already in place.  Those planning new construction and needing a new number assigned should call E-911 at (740)695-9104.  Next time you drive along a rural road, notice how many signs are (or aren’t) installed.

Maps for the whole county have been plotted at a 1”=400’ scale, and Goshen Township and about half of Wayne Township and Kirkwood Township have been reviewed using parcel data, aerials and the house numbering database.  A shapefile of completed records has been created and is being updated as buildings are identified.

The Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio held their annual conference February 6-8 in Columbus.  I was able to take advantage of several of the concurrent sessions.  GPS instruction included satellite launch history, and a noticeable gap in satellite deployment exists after the 1986 Challenger disaster.  ODNR gave a helpful presentation on flood plain mapping and instruction on determining if a structure is “in or out” of the flood plain.  Belmont County native Alicia Silverio was one of the two presenters, and stressed both maps of the flood plain and the floodway should be consulted.  A trooper from the Ohio State Highway Patrol outlined how she locates vehicles, debris and features after a serious highway crash.  She must be ready to travel anywhere in Ohio at any time, 24x7.  The Ohio Utility Protection Service noted about 16% of locate requests were filed via the Internet last year at  They hope this trend continues, as they prefer Internet filing as opposed to faxing or voice calls.  Saturday’s panel featured educators from several institutions of higher learning.  All are facing more budget cutbacks, yet remain dedicated to providing education in the surveying profession.  Belmont County surveyors Chuck Johnson and Mike Austin were able to attend this year’s event.  Next year’s conference is slated to be held in Cleveland.  Several County Engineer offices sent people to the conference.  It was gratifying to get some compliments from surveyors in other parts of the State of Ohio regarding parcel data and maps available on our GIS web site.

January, 2003

January 3 marked the last day of employment for Jim Forshey, District Conservationist for NRCS.  Jim has served faithfully on the GIS Committee since its inception over three years ago.  He has kept us updated on the status of digital soils mapping for Belmont County.  A retirement luncheon was held in his honor last week, and many in attendance from county government and USDA remarked on Jim’s integrity, sincerity and dedication to the people he served in the region.  He was a calming, stabilizing influence at Committee meetings, and will be missed.  Jim has the vision to see the long-term benefits of GIS for the community.  He is a credit to his family, church and profession.  Enjoy your retirement, Jim!

We are fortunate to have college student Kyle Neptune back during his semester break from Bethany College.  Kyle is plotting maps to be used by E-911 in matching house numbers to building polygons.  The E size maps show four sections at a 1” = 400’ scale and include digital orthos, road centerlines, parcel boundaries and building outlines.  Buildings are labeled with their feature ID numbers.  These numbers will be entered in 911’s house numbering database, enabling a relation to be established between the attribute table of the building polygons and the house numbering table.  About 17,000 rural house numbering records need the building feature ID number added.  The maps will assist in sorting out which buildings are residences and which are not.

It was pleasing to see the GIS mentioned in a Sunday, January 12 Times Leader newspaper article.  Eva Lunder, Director of the Belmont County Department of Development, accepted a donation of $1,000 from American Electric Power to assist in compilation of data for site development.  Online information is planned to help developers find property and attract new economic development.  Eva said, “A link to our GIS system will be a nice fit.”  Thanks for the mention, Eva!


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