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Letters to the Editor

April 19, 2000
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Readers speak out on the public image of surveyors, setting good monuments, standard titles for land surveyors, and the state of surveying in the 21st century.

"Public Image of Surveyors" November 1999

I currently hold registration as both a civil engineer and land surveyor in the state of California. Both professions are concerned with the way the public views them. I noticed, after reading the November 1999 issue of POB, that the professional image of surveyors continues to be an issue of special concern. I refer to three statements in the November issue:

"Obviously, our profession hasn't done a good enough job of getting "out there" and letting people know exactly what it is we do." ("The Measuring Man" by Jackie Headapohl)

"There isn't much to attract quality people to this field. We attract drug-addicts and alcoholics." (Letter to the Editor by Daniel L. Harris)

"But I do agree that we all, as surveyors, suffer from something. I believe it's a lack of recognition of what it is we do and the steps involved in doing it." ("Jeff Lucas Responds," Letters to the Editor)

With that issue established, what is the answer? What can be done to enhance the public perception of professional engineers and surveyors? I believe the answer is twofold. This isn't a new answer-I've heard these two suggestions for as long as I can remember. However, in the context of a society that becomes increasingly more technical on a daily basis, I believe that these two suggestions are more valid now than ever.

First is the recognition that the strength of a great tree is in its root system. Similarly, the strength of the surveying profession is in formal, university-level education. The day should arrive shortly whereby to qualify for a state-sanctioned, registering examination, the applicant should possess at least a bachelor's degree. The degree should be applicable to the surveying profession-degrees in physiology, biology, chemistry and library science would not qualify.

Secondly, the profession needs to weed its own backyard. There will always be the "wannabes," the unlicensed career party chiefs that act as though they are licensed, present themselves to the public as licensed surveyors and often underbid licensed professionals on surveying projects because of a lower cost of doing business. By lower cost, I mean no insurance, no office space other than a garage, no professional fees, no plotters for preparing maps, etc. If you believe that the public image of professional surveyors is enhanced by the "wannabes," then continue doing nothing. You are probably right where you wish to be.

"The professional license procedure tests applicants to determine if they are minimally competent to practice their profession without causing harm to the health and safety of the public," wrote Thomas Brooks Jr. in "A Broader Definition of Surveying." If the "wannabes" cannot successfully pass the examination to prove minimal competency, then why do we allow them to continue?

B.J. Tucker, PE, LS

Inyokern, Calif.

"The Soap Box" December 1999

Bravo to the gentleman who wrote the piece on setting good monuments! Surveyors would not be in the trouble they are today had our predecessors placed more emphasis on proper monumentation. Somewhere along the line surveyors got caught up in mathematics and placed less importance on the legal aspects of boundary work. Land has definitely increased in value since, so I don't intend to sound brash to some who may take offense. Where I come from, some surveyors didn't set monuments; did set them and never called them in descriptions; didn't take the time to describe the monuments properly; or worse yet, didn't do proper research. I still see surveys that do not call out monumentation but instead opt for reliance on State Plane Coordinates. This practice may achieve the short-term goal, i.e., keeping competitors out of your subdivision during construction phases, but it ultimately cripples future retracement efforts. Original surveyors owe the public and the profession the benefit of placing proper, durable, recorded monumentation. Charles Craft hits the nail on the head when he says that proper monumentation can be the first step in gaining respect. I would like to qualify this statement by adding that proper research coupled with legal knowledge of boundary law-then proper monumentation-will be the course for respect in the future. I worked for a reputable firm in the city that shows offsets to existing building corners-a great use of existing, very durable, long-lasting monuments.

Joseph Thompson, LSIT

Baltimore, Md.

"Standard Title for Land Surveyors"

There appears to be no standard title for a licensed land surveyor. A brief review of the signatures on the Letters to the Editor page in POB shows the following abbreviations: LS, PS, RLS and PLS. Is there a recommended or official abbreviation for land surveyors?

I think that a nationwide standard would help demonstrate unity in the profession and avoid confusion among our clients. Have you surveyed your readers for comments on recommended or preferred abbreviations, including preferences for either "licensed" or "registered" land surveyor?

Glenn R. Koepp, PE, LS

Madison, Wis.

"Thank You"

Thank you very much for POB magazine. I have been in surveying/engineering since the early '70s and have seen numerous improvements in the office and field with the technological advances that have been made. I am currently in the quality assurance division of a software company that includes one of the premier software packages for civil engineering, road design and surveying. I have always appreciated the quality of your magazine and the relevance of the articles you provide. I would encourage you to have at least one article pertaining to the law and another pertaining to the technical aspects of surveying per issue. I also greatly appreciate your software reviews. Keep up the good work!

Byron Henning, PE, RLS

via E-mail

"Where Do We Go From Here?" January 2000

I enjoyed Mr. Pallamary's view of the state of surveying as we enter the 21st century. Driving to work the following morning, I reflected about changes that have occurred over the 34 years I have been involved in the profession.

It led me back to a day during my first summer on a survey party. The party chief was a venerable gentleman who had been surveying since the Great Depression. The "crew"-all four of us-was totally green. After spending about a week trying to impart the basics required to stake a road alignment to some very doubtful starters, the boss decided it was time for a formal lecture.

We sat under a shade tree on a lunch break and he began. He opened by letting us know we were embarking along an old and noble career trail, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of some noted alumni including Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Then he asked the group what we thought the most important thing in surveying was.

Someone answered "inches" and was completely rebuked with, "Football is a game of inches. Surveying is not a game and we never use inches (except when giving line)." We all sat silently looking at each other.

The party chief paced about for a few seconds and then spoke, "The most important thing to keep in mind about surveying is ticks."

"Ticks?" I muttered.

"That's right," said the chief. "First you have your wood ticks, like the deadly Ixodus Scapularis. You need to be mindful of them while you are out measuring your lines. They can cause problems like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever." (Lyme Disease wasn't identified yet.)

"Next we need to be mindful of our projection ticks. These are the tools we use on our documents to define our location to our clients," he said. "And last, and perhaps most important of all, to collect our fees and maintain our stature in the community , we need to be mindful of our pol-i-ticks."

Even though I am now well equipped with the tools of the new millennium, GPS and GIS. I am still ever mindful of those ticks.

Michael L. Binge, PLS

via E-Mail

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