REGIS Reaches Virtual Reality

May 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — After nearly a dozen years in the making, an agency of the Grand Valley Metro Council recently took the wraps off its regional geographic information system.

The system, known as REGIS, is the result of possibly the largest multi-governmental cooperative effort in the nation, as 20 local units took part in its creation. To mark the system’s debut, the REGIS Agency held a ribbon-cutting ceremony, complete with computer demonstrations, on Monday.

“The project has progressed from a concept to a reality, and we are eager to showcase the system and show off its capabilities,” said Phil Lund, director of the REGIS Agency, a four-year-old affiliate of the Metro Council.

REGIS can compile layers of data related to land-use issues, planning projections and property development matters. Water, sewer and electrical, parcel specifications and traffic information are just a few of the items that can be accessed and analyzed for a specific site.

Lund said the system has been through four years of development and is now in the operational stage. He pointed out that it has numerous uses for a variety of users.

**Land planners can get information on an area, and adjacent areas, for a detailed analysis on several different levels, including school districts, zoning and master planning.

**Public safety officials can access crime incident reports and geographically display the results to help develop a strategy to reduce crime.

**Public works officials can get information on a water line, where the nearest hydrant or manhole is, when it was installed, what it’s made of and when it was last repaired.

**Citizens can have easier access to public documents regarding, say, tax assessments on their properties and comparable parcels.

The REGIS network currently extends throughout Kent and into portions of Ottawa counties, but the concept began in downtown Grand Rapids a dozen years ago.

The idea for an integrated computerized system that could capture, store, edit, analyze and display geographic data for nearly 900 square miles of West Michigan first surfaced when a GIS Steering Committee was formed in 1989. That committee, like the Metro Council then, was made of members from just 10 local units of government.

In1993, the Metro Council hired UGC Consulting, a Colorado firm, to do a yearlong cost-benefit analysis of the system. Two years later, however, the project stalled because of personnel changes and funding difficulties, and REGIS sat idle for a few years.

But in1997, the Metro Council revived the GIS Committee and got UGC to update the cost-benefit study. A year later, the REGIS Agency was created, the pilot program was completed and a decision to fully implement the system was made.

The implementation phase ended in September.

At Monday’s ceremony, demonstrations showed how a property, building or business can be located; how a population can be projected; and how a site analysis can be made, along with other uses.

The REGIS Agency is led by a board of 19 members of the Metro Council, the region’s official planning organization. The agency has a staff of 10 led by Lund. The Metro Council itself is made up of 32 local governments that represent nearly 650,000 people.

The REGIS Web site can be accessed at www.gvmc-regis.org.     

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