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Training Wyoming's

     County Clerks

 

 

 

Ken Tozier

 

Ken Tozier is founder and CEO of International Computer Works (Temple Terrace, FL).

 

 

Wyoming is among the first states using GIS to update digital maps for the U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER files. Census map information is distributed to the state on CD-ROM. Clerks in each of 23 counties then upload the files, make updates, store the revisions on diskettes, and send them to a central GIS coordinator. The changes are then compiled into a single file on a CD and sent to the Census Bureau where the changes are uploaded to the TIGER database. Obviously, this new system required that clerks in each of the counties be well trained in the updating procedures and the software used to update the files.

 

In August 1995, the state of Wyoming awarded a contract to International Computer Works (ICW, Temple Terrace, Florida) to provide a set of software products and services for the statewide Wyoming County Clerks geographic information systems (GIS) project.  The Request For Proposal (RFP) for the project was issued by Secretary of State Diana Ohman; it stated, "The main purpose of the County Clerks GIS project is to maintain the TIGER 94 data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census through the year 2002 in preparation for the 2000 Census, TIGER 2000, and legislative reapportionment for the state of Wyoming in the year 2002. The desire of the state is to have each county update and maintain the data and then have [the data] centrally collected, so that one contact point can then work with the Census Bureau to send the enhanced data back and forth between the state and the Census Bureau."

 

 

County training involved individual attention and hands-on experience.

 

Among the requirements for the Wyoming County Clerks project award was a statewide training strategy. Representatives from the 23 county clerks' offices had to become skilled at editing and updating the TIGER/Line files. Issues critical to the training plan included economy and an ability to address the needs of an audience consisting of predominately first-time GIS users.

 

GEARING UP

 

Twenty-five workstations were purchased: one for each of the 23 counties, one for the Secretary of State's office, and one for the project manager. The hardware selected included Pentium 120s (Intel, Santa Clara, California) with l7-inch monitors running Windows (Microsoft, Redmond, Washington) operating systems. Each unit had 16 megabytes of RAM, a 1.0 gigabyte disk drive, and an internal tape backup unit. The software included MapInfo (MapInfo, Troy, New York), along with TMT TIGER Update Edition (ICW), which consists of three components: TIGER to MapInfo Translator (TMT), MapEdit ToolKit, and MapInfo to TIGER Translator (MTT).

 

MapInfo is a general purpose GIS application that performs mapping and GIS-related tasks. The software's features and functionality extend well beyond the initial requirements of the TIGER update project; however, the specific steps used in the workflow for performing each type of edit are not defined. The MapEdit ToolKit is a MapBasic application that appears as a seamless addition to the standard MapInfo menu bar. MapEdit is specifically designed to guide users through the editing workflow to turn repetitive tasks into standard procedures, perform preedit validation, and manage multiple tables transparent to end users. Additionally, the toolkit manages changes to the feature information necessary to maintain the integrity of TIGER topology such as Version, TLID, sequence, sum values, and so forth.

 

The logistical challenges to designing the training strategy included the vast area to be covered - Wyoming is almost 98,000 square mile and its population is less than 500,000.  Approximately 75 people from 23 counties needed to participate in the training. This group represented a diverse range of computer skills and experience in using Windows and GIS and knowledge about TIGER/Line files. The experience level ran the gamut from first-time Windows users to skilled GIS analysts, with the majority of experience limited to such traditional PC applications as using word processors, spreadsheets, or databases.

 

During the project's implementation phase, the 1995 Block Boundary Suggestion Program (BBSP) version of the TIGERs were released. Also, automated participation in the BBSP or Census Redistricting Phase I (Public Law 94-171) had to be added to the MapEdit ToolKit and included in the training plans.

 

PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

 

With this information, the ICW team outlined the following requirements for the program.

 

  • Because of the size of the geographic area, regional classes would be conducted to minimize travel for participants and keep class sizes small enough to provide individualized training.
  • Each class needed to be completed in three days.
  • To ensure hands-on training, workstations would be distributed at the training sessions.  The sessions would introduce users to the hardware and establish a level of Windows literacy among all participants that would allow them to cross over the interface threshold and use the target applications.
  • Participants would be instructed about MapInfo usage to the extent necessary for success in the functional areas required by the TIGER Update Project, specifically using MapEdit ToolKit. The MapInfo training would be conducted as a prerequisite to any additional map training.
  • Instructors would communicate enough information about TIGER/Line to give users a sense of the relationship between the various record types they were updating. They would also provide insight to the topology of TIGER versus MapInfo.
  • Instructors would provide an understanding of what the BBSP entailed along with the specific steps for compliance. Attendees would be taught to use the translators "TMT in" and "MTT out."  Participants should become MapEdit experts - not experts in Windows, MapInfo, TIGER, or BBSP. They had to be experts in the use of the MapEdit ToolKit.

 

1995 TIGER/Line files in purple, overlay parcel data in green before editing (left).  TIGER/Line files in black and overlay parcel data in green (right) after editing.

 

Fortunately, the ICW team was not alone. The Secretary of State's office provided logistical support and the services of Richard Memmel - GIS coordinator for the information technology division - as project manager. The U.S. Census Bureau provided people for several classes who were knowledgeable in TIGER or BBSP, and MapInfo conducted a special one-day "Introduction to MapInfo" course for each of the training sessions.

 

TIGER/Line files before alignment with a parcel map.

 

Working with the Secretary of State's office in Cheyenne, we were able to secure four excellent training facilities, one in each of the four comers of the state - Cheyenne, Gillette, Powell, and Rock Springs. Most of the attendees traveled to these sights one day in advance and came to class ready to begin by 8:00 a.m. on the first day of class.

 

DAILY SESSIONS

 

Because of the regional nature of the training sessions, five to seven counties attended one or more of the classes. Each county was represented by one to three people. Several counties attended more than one session. Each of those counties brought their workstations with them to maintain the hands-on orientation of the training.

 

Prior to the training, Memmel and an assistant organized and set up the workstations. The morning of the first day, he provided participants with the necessary introduction to the hardware and a brief overview of the Windows interface.

 

Knowing what MapInfo skills were necessary to effectively use the MapEdit ToolKit, the ICW team recommended the content for what became a one-day "Introduction to MapInfo" course. A MapInfo trainer then prepared the class for two days of MapEdit ToolKit training by ICW personnel. The MapInfo training typically commenced by 9:30 a.m. and ran through the first day, which ended well after 5:00 p.m.

 

Secretary of State Ohman was present the first day of each class, delivering a kick-off message for each of the respective groups. In speaking to the county clerks about the GIS reapportionment project, Ohman said, "This is an important project, important to our state, and important as a model for other states to follow. We are the only state tackling this project [together] and it is an opportunity for Wyoming to be a leader."

 

On the morning of the second day, the ICW trainer and the representative from the U.S. Census presented a discussion about the structure of TIGER/Line. This helped the attendees understand the differences between TIGER topology and MapInfo topology.

 

The balance of the morning revolved around demonstrating the MapEdit ToolKit and how each of the editing functions were intended to be used. ICW provides TIGER/Line files of the city of Manassas, Virginia, along with a spatially correct backdrop with the update. These files are used in training along the tutorial-based documentation that accompanies the update software. The afternoon training consisted of hands-on use of the three modules that make up the TMT's Update edition with specific emphasis on the ToolKit.  By the end of the second day, all of the participants were proficiently editing TIGER/Line files. Before leaving class that afternoon, the batch translation of the TIGERs for each of the attendees was initiated.

 

The results of the translation provided the attendees with their own county data ready for use in training on the third day. After a brief review of the material covered in the two preceding days, the third day of training was spent editing their own 1995 TIGER/Line Files. This approach allowed the instructors to move from workstation to workstation offering assistance on an individual basis. At the end of the third day of training, representatives from each of the counties packed up their new workstations - loaded with their own county data and ready for updating.

 

These training sessions were conducted in the months of September and October 1995. In

March 1996, two advanced courses were taught - one each in Lander and Casper. Representatives from each of the counties returned with their workstations and edits in process. Again, hands-on training was an important component.

 

The Wyoming project manager and representatives from the U.S. Census and ICW conducted the training in the March sessions. Representatives from the Denver, Colorado, office of the U.S. Census addressed issues pertaining to BBSP, while the balance of the sessions focused on advanced editing, quality control issues, and individual attention to each county team.

 

ICW and Wyoming's project manager are providing ongoing technical support to the county clerks. On several occasions, workshops have been conducted by the Wyoming project team. This approach to support and training will continue into the foreseeable future with the Wyoming TIGER Update Project.

 

With good hardware, software, training, management support, and - most importantly - a dedicated group of participants, our national treasury of digital geography with attribution is being updated one county at a time in Wyoming.