A Geospatial Marriage

October 1, 2007
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Adam Teale, PLS, obtains State Plane Coordinate information for boundary control using survey-grade RTK GPS. Boundary and topographic surveys are referenced to the Nodaway County GRS network, which will become part of the data supporting the county’s Web GIS.


A land surveying company, a geographic information system (GIS) company and a title insurance company: Is there a more obvious marriage of businesses? John Teale, PLS, and Troy Hayes, PLS, don’t think so. They’ve been striving toward maintaining their status as premier providers of professional land surveying and GIS services in the Midwest since 1999. The marriage of these three businesses is serving Central U.S. residents well.

Dustin Shepherd of Midland Surveying localizes on an original U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey monument, now incorporated into the Nodaway County Geographic Reference System (GRS) network that provides reference for updating the county’s GIS.

From Then to Now

The original corporate umbrella of Teale’s and Hayes’ companies was Midland Engineering of Maryville, Mo., a civil engineering firm founded in 1972 with land surveying and mapping support. In 1989, the original founder retired and sold the firm to Teale and Hayes. In succeeding years, the focus and strength of Midland Engineering shifted gradually toward surveying and mapping services. In 2001, the engineering services department of Midland Engineering was acquired by Snyder & Associates of Ankeny, Iowa, allowing Teale and Hayes to focus their strengths on land surveying and GIS development through the expansion of Midland Surveying Inc. (directed by Hayes) and newly founded Midland GIS Solutions (directed by Teale). The two entities provide surveying and GIS services throughout Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

In 1989, Teale and Hayes also strengthened the Midland label by acquiring Allen & Quinn Title Company, the oldest and most established title company in northwest Missouri’s largest county, Nodaway. It is now known as Nodaway County Abstract & Title Company and shares records with Midland Surveying Inc. and Midland GIS Solutions. “The purchase of Allen & Quinn Title Company was our first step in providing a diversified common service to assist our clients from survey through the transfer of title,” Teale says. “The creation of Midland GIS Solutions provided the technology to bridge all three firms through the sharing of data.”

Hayes, president of Midland Survey-ing Inc., explains the relationship between the three entities: “We are a one-stop shop. Properties are surveyed by Midland Surveying, title insurance and real estate closings are provided by Nodaway County Abstract, and all information is mapped and shared between all three companies via a Land Information System (LIS) developed by Midland GIS Solutions.”

Today the three organizations--Midland Surveying Inc., Midland GIS Solutions and Nodaway County Abstract & Title Company--consist of professional land surveyors, GIS specialists, analysts, programmers, Web administrators, GIS technicians, title agents for First American Title Insurance Company and Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, and real estate closing agents. The three firms are currently commonly owned, yet each has its own unique business focus. It’s a marriage that serves its customers well. Here’s how.

Real estate closings at Nodaway County Abstract & Title Company can be conducted with the property information viewed on a 42-inch monitor via Midland’s internal Web GIS.

A Web of Information

The sharing of data necessary for the daily activities of each of the three firms is enhanced through a Web-based GIS/LIS program internally developed and maintained by Midland GIS Solutions. Each firm contributes data unique to its business into the central repository called the “Web GIS.” The Web GIS provides instant management solutions by providing cadastral and land ownership information to each company. Every parcel of land in the county was mapped into the GIS by Midland GIS Solutions, and is continuously maintained and linked to an ownership database. Digital copies of boundary surveys, topographic surveys, State Plane Coordinate values and government corner certificates prepared by Midland Surveying are entered into the system. Record documents scanned daily by Nodaway County Abstract are digitally attached to the corresponding parcel. The Web GIS links each parcel in the county to an ownership database providing each landowner’s name, address, deed book and page, and other relative information unique to that property. All digital data is hyperlinked to its respective parcel within the GIS, providing access to new deeds, surveys, section corner certificates and other record documents affecting each property. Survey-grade State Plane Coordinate values for controlling corners within urban and high growth areas were provided by Midland Surveying and were used to initiate the more accurate parcel map of the entire county as the base for the GIS. As new survey-grade coordinate values are provided, the GIS is continually updated to improve its accuracy.

The internal Web GIS also provides analytical capabilities. Title companies are often required to identify information for multiple landowners within a certain radius or corridor for rezoning, annexation, utility networks, construction projects and other purposes. Through the course of normal business, Midland Surveying is required to obtain deeds of properties to be surveyed along with adjacent owners, properties affected by new development and other similar examples. In the past, this task could take hours or even days to complete. Users of the Web GIS can now filter an area instantly, identifying all affected landowners’ names, and their deed book, page and address information. Hyperlinked record documents, survey plats and other available information can also be quickly downloaded and printed. The information provided by the Web GIS is more complete than other repositories and requires only minutes of work instead of days.

“Information that is unique and critical to each [of Midland’s businesses] is electronically shared, providing an enhanced efficiency not otherwise possible,” says Lana Mattson, manager at Nodaway County Abstract. “This efficiency is a benefit to Nodaway County residents, as accurate information is prepared and provided to clients without delay.”

Midland’s internal Web GIS of Nodaway County gives each company’s staff members the ability to look up information on any parcel in the county. Information includes owner names, parcel ID, lot size, legal description, deed information, appraised values, etc.

Linking Hard Copies to GIS

In August 1994, Midland Survey-ing was called on to produce a boundary survey of an undeveloped tract of land on the outer perimeter of the Maryville City limits for the purpose of potential development. A Title Commitment was prepared by Nodaway County Abstract in preparation of an eventual sale. The title search was conducted using the traditional method of running the tract index books for the company’s title plant. Midland Surveying developed a plat of survey, which was subsequently used to accurately map the parcel onto the county’s hard copy tax maps.

In February 2005, Midland Surveying received a request to provide a boundary and topographic survey of 30 acres within the survey from 1994. Simultaneously, Nodaway County Abstract received an order to provide title insurance for the same parcel. Both Midland Surveying and Nodaway County Abstract retrieved the traditional hard copy files from their previous work. Midland Surveying began the new survey by first referencing the county’s Geographic Reference System (GRS) to the Missouri State Plane Coordinate system, which allowed the new survey to be directly inserted into the county’s since-developed Web GIS.

(Since 2002, Midland Surveying has referenced all surveys within the county to the Missouri Coordinate System, utilizing the county’s GRS network, which was established the same year. This makes it possible for Midland GIS Solutions to insert all new subdivisions, boundary retracements and government corner positions into the GIS instantly and accurately, allowing for the continuous update and enhancement of the countywide cadastral base map.)

The property surveyed had to be rezoned to fit the proposed use. The city of Maryville ordinances required that all property owners within a 180-foot radius of the property be notified. Through an internal Web GIS search, Nodaway County Abstract quickly “buffered” the properties to be identified and within minutes developed printed mailing labels for each owner to be affected. The traditional and more time-consuming method of “running the tract index books” to identify the affected landowners took hours to complete, but the Web GIS took only minutes.

Additionally, land corner restoration forms and other research information provided by Midland Surveying (as well as all scanned deeds and additional data pertaining to the affected properties provided by Nodaway County Abstract) were hyperlinked to the parcel by Midland GIS Solutions. All data relative to the project was made readily available to all companies through the Web GIS.

Improving the Marriage

The Web GIS utilized by Midland Surveying, Nodaway County Abstract and Midland GIS Solutions is maintained daily by each firm as a normal course of business. The next step, currently in progress, that will enhance the Web GIS is to scan and hyperlink Midland Surveying’s 34 years of survey records for the system’s archives. This will provide instant access to all prior surveys and make available a thematic map to quickly identify previous surveys in the area for providing cost estimates. Midland Surveying and Midland GIS Solutions are also working jointly to develop similar Web-based programs to archive survey data of other counties in northwest Missouri where they regularly provide surveying and GIS services.

Though separate disciplines, the functions of Midland Surveying, Mid-land GIS Solutions and Nodaway County Abstract are critical to the success of the other. Through the proprietary Web GIS, these firms are now more efficient in providing their respective professional services to residents of the middle central U.S. states.

“Midland Surveying, Nodaway Coun-ty Abstract and Midland GIS Solutions have made a concerted effort to be on the forefront of the technological advances for the services we provide,” Teale says. “We live in a world where the transfer of information is expected immediately. Those expectations will only increase, creating a challenge for those of us who provide information to the public. As technology continues to evolve, it is our goal and commitment to stay abreast of those changes.”

Teale’s and Hayes’ approach to business will help them do just that--and more. The commonly developed and maintained Web GIS program is the link for sharing cadastral map data, land record searches and analytical processes that all accurately and quickly improve each firm’s efficiency and productivity. To them, it’s an obvious marriage of businesses.

For more on Midland GIS Solutions, click to www.midlandgis.com.

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