Readers sound off on topics from recent issues of POB.

To a Wonderful Lady

Surveying students applying for state and national scholarships are asked to prepare a 200 word essay on the meaning of professionalism. They don’t need 200 words to define professionalism. They need only two: Mary Feindt.

God so loved the world that for 86 years He gave us wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, mentor, associate and friend.

God so loved the world that for 86 years He gave us a model of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

God so loved the world that for 86 years He gave us… Mary Feindt.

Carl F. Shangraw, PS
Associate Professor, Surveying Engineering
Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich.

Safety in the Trenches
February 2003

I was the director of the Bureau of Site Engineering in the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC). I retired in May 2002 after DDC completed its mission at Ground Zero. I would like to thank Ken Stigner, PS, PP, for his excellent article in February’s issue. It was detailed and informative for the surveying community. The surveyors at Ground Zero were truly unsung heroes. Because of their efforts there was not one fatality among the rescue workers during the rescue and recovery phase.

The Bureau of Site Engineering in the Department of Design and Construction was called in to manage the survey activities at Ground Zero. The enormity of this task forced a call to the private sector for support and assistance. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Calls came from all over the country from surveyors [offering to volunteer] their services. I am very proud of and thankful for being a part of this wonderful profession.

I want to thank [the workers from] Vollmer, Lockwood/Kessler/Bartlett and Tectonic for their assistance at Ground Zero. Without their help the DDC surveyors would have been burnt out working 15-hour shifts, seven days a week. And finally but not least, thank you to all the surveyors around the country who were willing to come to New York City in a minute’s notice to support the rescue and recovery efforts.

Alfred D. Barcenilla Sr., PE, LS
Ozone Park, N.Y.

Geographic Information Systems:
One surveyor’s perspective
March 2003

The requirements for the establishment of a successful GIS program are the same for any project or product development, “A Sound Business Plan.” As part of this plan, one must review and know what one’s GIS program is to develop and what is needed to get out of it. It makes little sense to spend large sums of money on technology, data and personnel without knowing exactly both the accuracy and the data needed to extract from the geographic information system. Any organization that plans to utilize GIS must establish its specific requirements prior to implementation of data collection or hardware purchase. The planners within any organization must establish what information they need their system to provide prior to determining what data and the required accuracy of that data is needed.

As part of this process, one should establish planning partners and their parts in the development of the business plan. A county GIS program might include partners such as the assessment office, the planning office, conservation districts, the emergency management office, the sheriff’s office and the communication center. Each of these departments will have their own standards for accuracy of an end product. Types of county programs will differ from state to state, depending on whether it is a strong or weak county government. Also, it will differ between urban and rural areas due to the need for accuracy (based on the business plan) in more urban areas and an increase in the number of planning partners. The overall GIS program must meet the program needs of the planning partners or business plan development. Rural areas with little to no budget for GIS development rely on data developed by others and statewide datasets. The need for minimum statewide data standards for GIS programs is much the same as the need for minimum standards on survey requirements. It is problematic for both organizations to develop minimum standards without pitting various segments of the professions against one another. Without minimum standards, duplication of data development or lack of consistency between data or lack of data due to costs will continue to have a major impact on GIS programs.

While many in the surveying profession might wish for a high level of accuracy on all layers relating to boundary lines, this must be a cost-effective part of the business plan or program goals. Too many people evaluate a GIS program by their own standards and needs or the standards of someone else’s business plan. Each GIS program must be evaluated on the standards on which it was developed and the product that it was developed to produce. As many areas look to require survey plans to be submitted to planning agencies in digital format for conversion into various zoning or tax map projects, members of both professions need to know the accuracy standards under which each product was created. If planning agencies merely state that all surveys must be tied to State Plane Coordinates without any standards, will it meet the requirements to establish this tie with a handheld GPS unit or scale off a USGS map? The need for both the GIS specialists and the surveyor to establish “minimum standards of practice,” and for both to understand and define the accuracy of all products developed at this time is critical. As the GIS specialists overlay many layers and datasets, which are made up of different accuracy standards, one must know the method used to create these individual layers to set the accuracy standard of the end product. This is much the same as when a surveyor traces the soils from a soil survey book onto his plat without regard to accuracy or a statement on the plat on the accuracy of that data. Each of these products is developed as a requirement by the end user, but development of data or notes on the product needs to be part of it also. The GIS world calls it metadata. As GIS professionals will be relying on surveyors to define portions of GISs developed, a wider gap between these professions will be created—that is if either does not understand the process by which GIS programs should be developed.

The other question, which I feel will be debated for some time yet, is that of registration or licensing of GIS technicians. As data collection becomes easier, more and more users will start developing data, from conservation districts to others in county and state governmental agencies, using GPS units and data collectors to gather data, the issue will become more debated. While I do believe that the politics of this issue will win out in the end, I still question if this will create the ethics needed to regulate the misuse of data and the misrepresentation of accuracy of data or register the users of that data.

Paul J. Weilage, PLS
Director of Wyoming County Planning
via E-mail

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB.

Send your thoughts to the editor at or mail to Letter to the Editor, POB magazine, 755 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 1000, Troy, MI 48084.