City Renews GIS Contract

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

August 25, 2023

The Morro Bay City Council voted to extend a service contract with a San Luis Obispo tech company to help the City manage its raw data and package it into a usable format for the Community Development and Public Works Departments.

The City has been contracting with Terra Solutions, owned by Michael Brannagan, since 2019 for CIS services. The council approved a 2-year extension of that contract for $60,000 a year bringing Terra’s total contract (for 2019-2025) to some $360,000.

The contract has no fixed amount of work that’s to be done but would be up to the $60,000 a year (at $60 an hour) for GIS services, with any overtime bills having to be approved ahead of time by the City.

Brannagan’s main duties have been working on the City’s “Cityworks” program, a project for tracking, asset management and work orders.  

“Cityworks,” Community Development Director, Scot Graham’s report said, “is GIS based and can only be maintained/supported by someone with significant GIS experience.” Such computer software is expensive as is a computer expert needed to run it.

Brannagan has over 20 years of experience working with GIS systems, according to the report. At one time, he worked for the Regional Water Quality Control Board, according to the Terra Solutions’ website.

Under the agreement, he will perform certain tasks:

• Maintenance of the City’s ArcGIS Server;

• Cityworks support;

• GIS data management (parcel, owner info., address updates);

• Development of additional applications and support of same,

• GIS Mapping and Map Production; and,

• GPS date (sic) Collection and other related tasks.

“Terra Solutions,” reads the company’s website, “offers as-needed services. This means Terra Solutions can work as many hours as necessary to complete a project for your important client, or work no hours if no project help is needed. No long-term commitment and often our client can pass our cost onto their client, possibly with some markup.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website, “A Geographic Information System is a computer system that analyzes and displays geographically referenced information. It uses data that is attached to a unique location.

“Most of the information we have about our world contains a location reference: [for example] Where are USGS stream gages located? Where was a rock sample collected? Exactly where are all of a city’s fire hydrants?”

GIS is a way to layer different data sets on top of each other to further define and explain what’s going on in a given location.

For example, “If a rare plant is observed in three different places,” USGS said, “GIS analysis might show that the plants are all on north-facing slopes that are above an elevation of 1,000 feet and that get more than 10-inches of rain per year. GIS maps can then display all locations in the area that have similar conditions, so researchers know where to look for more of the rare plants.

“By knowing the geographic location of farms using a specific fertilizer, GIS analysis of farm locations, stream locations, elevations, and rainfall will show which streams are likely to carry that fertilizer downstream.

“These are just a few examples of the many uses of GIS in earth sciences, biology, resource management, and many other fields.”

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