GIS data bill rejected by board PDF E-mail

Dear Editor:

This is an open letter to the Hamilton County taxpayers.
First, let me explain that as county surveyor we are here to protect the property owners of Hamilton County. I have taken the oath of office and my duty is to the property owners of Hamilton County, not the assessor, treasurer or commissioners. I am not employed by the county commissioners or any other elected officer of Hamilton County. I am elected by you, the residents of Hamilton County.
My job is providing correct data for the use of county offices like the assessor, planning and zoning, sheriff, emergency management, flood plain administrator and highway department. My job also includes providing correct data to the state and federal highway departments, FEMA, U.S. Forestry Service, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Nebraska Game and Parks, DEQ, appraisers, realtors, insurance providers, lending institutions, power companies, gas companies and communication companies.
State law requires the county to provide the county surveyor with the equipment, personnel and supplies and pay mileage necessary to complete his duties, and provide an adequate salary for his services. State statues also require contract work that is completed by a firm that is owned by an elected official to be done at direct cost. Katt Surveying provided this service since 1997. I have the letters from accountability and disclosure giving me the clearance to provide these services to Hamilton County. Katt Surveying has never been paid for mileage. We have updated GPS equipment four times to maintain the technology level required for surveying and GIS. We have spent numerous hours in schooling on the ever-changing technology required to be the best that we can be in our field. This has all been paid by Katt Surveying.
The GIS information that was destroyed on the server in the surveyor/GIS office was in no way linked to personnel of Katt Surveying or the Hamilton County surveyor’s office. The GIS was our baby. We had 12 years of blood, sweat and tears into making this one of the top GIS systems in Nebraska. The Hamilton County surveyor/GIS department has been asked by state officials to teach classes on the correct way to set up and operate a GIS system.
Note that the GIS from the county assessor’s office is not the system we are talking about. A number of errors in plotting of parcels and irregular tracts have crated a system that has inaccuracies, as to the position of property lines, that make it useless to power, gas, telephone utilities as far as planning the location of new services. The incorrect position of these parcels is in no way the fault of the girls in the assessor’s office. They are not trained and licensed surveyors. The state law requires that the plotting, computing of area and describing of parcels and irregular tracts is the job of a licensed land surveyor and that anyone who is not a licensed land surveyor and is performing these services is guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.
The GIS information that was lost for the server’s X drive and the two backups were purchased from Katt Surveying by Hamilton County. Katt Surveying did the field work on memory cards, memory sticks and data collectors that they owned. When the field work was completed it was transferred to the Hamilton County surveying/GIS server. The Katt Surveying-owned memory cards were then used for other Katt Surveying projects. It took one Katt Surveying employee three months to find, separate, put in order and plot the information on these memory cards, sticks and data collectors. A voucher was submitted to the county board a number of months ago for the time to put this information together. The request was rejected by certain members of the board.
Commissioner Andersen thinks if the county buys something and it is destroyed that it should be replaced at the cost of the supplier. If commissioner Andersen buys a new tractor and, when he changes oil forgets to put the drain plug in and in turn ruins the engine, does he expect to have the dealer pay for his negligence? It seems that is what he expects from Katt Surveying.
In this day and age, the work of the county surveyor and the need for correct information is more important that at any other time in history. When a tract of land sells and the acreage recorded in the assessor’s office is off by three acres, it can make for a loss of $20,000 to $40,000 to either the buyer or the seller.
The federal government agencies are depending more and more on the county surveyors to supply the information for programs that are no longer funded by them.
I suggest before you make any discussions based on what you have heard from people who have no knowledge of land surveying and GIS, that you talk with your county surveyor, county GIS administrator, state surveyor or state GIS coordinator. There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there who think they know it all. When they start talking about surveying and GIS, ask them if they have ever passed the 16 hours of Nebraska exams, the Nebraska survey laws exam and spent four years working under a licensed land surveyor. If they have not, they have no idea what they are talking about.
A wise man knows his field of expertise. An idiot does not.
Duane A. Katt

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