Dodge County moving closer to 'virtual courthouse'

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FREMONT, Neb. (AP) – The days of a “virtual courthouse” are rolling closer as the Dodge County Assessor prepares to launch a new multi-faceted geographic information service website.

“We’re still trying to work out some of the changes in the formatting of how the data is laid out, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get everything changed, and we’re hoping to get it launched within the next couple weeks,” Assessor Brittny King told the Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/1Chdd9H ).

The Schneider Corporation’s Beacon software is popular in Iowa and other Midwestern states, but Dodge County is the company’s first foothold in Nebraska’s GIS market.

King said she looked at many Beacon sites in other states before Dodge County in May hired the company.

The site will be linked to the county’s main site, dodgecounty.ne.gov, and initially include only the assessor’s office, but county leaders envision broader use of Beacon to eventually include all county offices, and possibly agencies outside of county government.

“Future plans are that any office that expresses interest … will be able to have their own tab on there with any layers they prefer,” said Supervisor Greg Beam, chairman of the technology committee.

Other county offices, including the register of deeds, county clerk, treasurer, roads and zoning, “are champing at the bit” to be included, Beam said.

Voting districts and polling places, school districts, fire districts, tax status of individual properties, roads and bridges, could be some of the information ultimately accessible on the site.

Ryan S. Smith, business development manager for The Schneider Corporation, described last February how other clients have used Beacon to provide online information ranging from property assessment data to tabs for cemetery searches, sexual predator mapping, and even locations of barn quilts.

“If someone has a GIS layer that they want to upload, as long as it’s in the right format for the GIS layer, we could send that information and those files to Schneider, and they would upload that onto our website for free, and those layers could be displayed for free,” King said.

For King’s office, layers include highways, county addresses, parcels, township sections, aerial photos, and high resolution images.

“For Fremont (where the city conducts its own GIS program and shares data with the county), we’ll have an airport layer, a bus routes layer, streets, flood plain, parks, schools, school districts, subdivisions, and zoning,” she said.

Residents, King explained, can use a search feature to determine comparable sales for their property.

“I think people who deal with real property or real estate are going to use it more on a daily basis,” she said, “but I think a lot of the public will be able to use it for other things too. Insurance companies, developers and different businesses could use it.”

She expects heavy usage during tax protests and when new valuations are issued.

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