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Map software puts county info on the Web

"Island County government is getting a new, online look that could last if Internet users take advantage of it.The county board of commissioners voted May 21 to try out MapCiti, a new graphics service that enables governments to provide online information about topics ranging from governmental infrastructure, planning and zoning, utilities and emergency services.The service is designed to make online data available to users, both in and out of government.The commissioners agreed to a six-month, $2,000 trial use of the service, developed by Boston-based Syncline. The money will come out a state grant, according to the planning department.Commissioner Mac McDowell said MapCiti offers a relatively inexpensive way to provide data to the public...not historically made available.We'll see if we buy into this concept ... if it gets a good evaluation, McDowell said. The company's product Website asserts MapCiti eliminates the need to print and manually distribute maps, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Instead, online users are able to create their own maps, using data provided through the site.MapCiti service subscribers may also freely update map information, as well as create maps with different data combinations, the company site says.Perhaps best of all, said planning department Director Phil Bakke, MapCiti is supposed to make the county's mapping and database information available to those with common computer programs.Geographic information once only readable online with expensive software programs will be accessible to anyone with Microsoft Explorer, said Bakke.During the six-month trial, which ends in November, the county will exclusively use the MapCiti service in conjunction with the development of a non-incorporated urban growth area in Freeland.We want to see if people actually use it, said Bakke about MapCiti. Is it as useful as we believe?The county Web site - at www.islandcounty.net - provides aerial photos and electronically scanned county zoning maps. With MapCiti the viewers will also be able to see fully-digitized parcel maps. "

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