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Letters to the Editor- February 2000

April 18, 2000
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Readers speak out on map accuracy, title company surveys, and surveying as a proud and respectable career.

"Map Accuracy"
September 1999 POB

I really enjoyed this issue. There were a variety of articles useful not only to the surveyor but also to many allied disciplines, such as cartography and photogrammetry. Regarding Mark Meade's "Map Accuracy" article, reference to a map compiled at one scale being larger or smaller than a map compiled at another scale is unconventional. Ordinarily we say that the scale is larger or smaller, not the map itself. To be sure, there is much confusion regarding larger vs. smaller scale since few of us think of scale as a pure number. Also, Table 1 (page 43) shows differences to a very high precision--hundredths of a foot. One can certainly measure positions on a digital map to the precision supported by the CAD software, but should be careful about representing the measurement to that precision. Regarding the elevations, were they visually interpolated from the 2' contours to +/-.01 foot (a bit of a stretch), or were they mathematically interpolated from a terrain model which was also the source of the contours? Dave Wolf USDA Forest Service Lakewood, Colo.

Mark Meade responds:

As Mr. Wolf mentions, there is a great deal of confusion regarding larger versus smaller scale. I tried to use an example to eliminate the confusion. Upon review of the article it would have been more appropriate to use the phrase"presented at a scale" rather than "compiled at a scale." The horizontal and vertical comparisons were made at such a high level of precision because the expected precision of the GPS positions was a few hundredths of a foot. I made no assumptions regarding the accuracy of the mapping positions prior to completing the research. The positional comparisons were intended to prove this level of accuracy. Given the results of the map accuracy evaluation, it would be appropriate to make future comparisons to the nearest tenth of a foot for similar projects.

The mapping elevations were determined by interpolation from the map contours. Technically the National Map Accuracy Standards for vertical accuracy apply to the presentation of the contour lines on the map, although today the digital terrain model can be more important than the contours themselves. The elevation data found in the digital terrain model was not used, although this would be an interesting future exercise.

"An Unfair Advantage"
October 1999

I am a licensed land surveyor from Kentucky. I travel extensively around the country for training seminars. Myexperiences have led me to believe that these practices throughout the mortgage business are widespread and may be the gravest danger we face as a profession today.

Check out some of the comments on the web page www.rpls.com. I am flabbergasted at the lack of knowledge and pride in their profession that some of these guys have. Some will brag about hiring people they don't have to supervise. This type of practice has and will continue to demean all of us in the eyes of the general public. The fees that are charged by these charlatans are often less than the paperwork fees in most real estate transactions. What is the public left to believe except that the final product is not worth even the low price they charged.

I firmly believe if we cannot find a way to better control this market, we should step aside and let the title companies do these as non-licensed procedures--let anyone do it! The damage caused to all of our collective reputations is not worth keeping the flimflam operators in business. We must separate ourselves from this entire industry if it cannot be conducted in a way which reflects well on our profession.

This problem is widespread! Ohio is atrocious for its mortgage methods. I have watched a surveyor (correction, an individual who holds a survey license) approve these things as fast as he can affix his stamp and signature. Of course he did not have to review them at all as he hired and trained "good people." His one-man crews consisted of day-lighting bartenders and a draftsman with no survey experience. So my suggestion of just fling open the doors and let anyone with a 100' tape do these surveys is not all that wild; it is what is happening today. (In his defense, all new hires did get to ride around and learn for a couple of weeks with another guy who might actually have had five or six months experience. I suggested training these people. He responded they were not smart enough!)

Please stress somehow in your magazine the damage these people are doing to our profession! My grandfather always said you are judged by the company you keep. We need to stop keeping company with this group of flimflam operators immediately!

The truly sad part is that there are lots of surveyors out there doing these types of surveys correctly and to the best of their ability. Jeff A. Smith, PLS via E-mail South Carolina has a resident surveyor requirement, but with a big loophole. A firm can be licensed as a corporation with a "Certificate of Authorization" seal if they have one registered surveyor to seal plats. One does not have to be a licensed surveyor to be an officer of the company. For five years, an unlicensed surveyor has been living and practicing in this city. A licensed surveyor in the "company" office 75 miles away supposedly signs the plats, but has no daily (or even occasional) supervision of the work. The unlicensed surveyor has a full crew, vehicles, all field and office equipment, drafting, printing and plotting equipment, and works full time in all phases of land surveying for the general public.

As an officer of the company, he has authority to negotiate jobs, accept payment, sign payroll checks, pay expenses, deliver plats, etc. In short, he can operate as any other self-employed registered surveyor, except he cannot sign his own plats.

Under these circumstances, any full- or part-time unlicensed surveyor can work with impunity if a licensed surveyor--even on the other side of the state--will set up a dummy corporation for him or her. Jack Smith, PLS Lancaster, S.C.

"Letters to the Editor"
November 1999

The letter in the November1999 issue,"Viewpoint: Stil Giving it Away," by Daniel L.Harris compelled me to write.

I learned my basic surveying principles while working as an archaeologist. Archaeological jobs were scarce, so I pursued surveying. That is where I met Pete. Now a licensed surveyor, Pete was the party chief and overall "doer of everything." During my initial interview for the job, he questioned why someone with an extensive formal education and solid work history would want to do survey work. It was then Pete pointed out that people who were uneducated, drug-addicted, alcoholic or had criminal records were the types most often hired into surveying. That was his test to see if I would back out.

We worked for a very small, one-owner company. The boss made the real money from mortgage surveys. He wouldn't talk to his employees, except Pete, and that was fairly rare. We barely made above minimum wage to start and raises were few. Nevertheless, we worked like Trojans, especially Pete.

An illness forced me to leave, and later Pete went on to another company. Contrary to Mr. Harris, I was always fond of the "excitement working in the briars, mangroves, cold, etc." I found the entire field of surveying to be exciting. Surveyors I worked with and encountered in the field were intelligent, hard-working and not on the verge of mental collapse. Michael Bradshaw Williamsburg, Va. Ã'The Measuring ManÓ November 1999 I just read your editorial on Ã'The Measuring ManÓ and it reminded me of my own childhood experience. I still remember seeing a man on the sidewalk in front of the house looking through an instrument at something down the block and writing in a book. I asked what he was doing and his response was, Ã'ItÕs far too complicated to explain to you.Ó It is ironic that I ended up in the mapping profession. Luckily, I was not too discouraged by that instrument operatorÕs response. Had he only given me even a simple response, Ã'IÕm measuring the road,Ó I would have a fonder story to tell than remembering someone who didnÕt want to take the time to explain something to a curious kindergartner. George Y. G. Lee U.S. Geological Survey Menlo Park, Calif. Ã'ThanksÓ I am a new subscriber to your magazine and just received my second issue (Nov. Õ99). I am fairly new to the world of land surveying, but as I gain more experience with GPS, terrain mapping and GIS, surveying is my dream. Your magazine will help me become better educated and better prepared for whatever lies ahead. I look forward to reading your magazine each month. I wasnÕt sure whether you would consider my full- time position in cartography and GIS to be acceptable for your free subscription. You did, and it is greatly appreciated. With college tuition and the cost of living, times can be difficult, making your gift of the free subscription a valuable asset! Bob Baudendistel Huntsville, Ala.

"Survey Awareness Week"

I am a 29-year-old surveyor intern working for my father, a 25-year veteran of land surveying in the state of Texas. Our local high school had a career night, and we both volunteered to promote our profession in honor of Survey Awareness Week. At first we thought no one would visit our booth. But as the night progressed, we had parents and students visit us. They wondered why we were up there to begin with, but we explained that with new technology, our profession is changing. In the state of Texas, the board has decided that if you want a license, you will need to have a bachelor's degree in an approved field. This will make surveyors in Texas few and far between. We only have one field crew and could use at least two more, but we cannot find qualified help. This is the reason we set up a booth. I quickly gathered as much information about surveying as possible, such as information on how to get a license or become a technician. We made 10 copies of everything and handed them all out. We could have handed out more. The response was great.

I am glad I am starting my surveying profession now. This is an exciting time to be a land surveyor because of the technology that is available to us. I wonder what the future has in store and whether we will be surveying the new frontier. I am glad there is an awareness week; now I have a reason to go to the school and give a speech about what I do for a living. Davey Edwards Decatur, Texas

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