Arkansas Centerline File Updates: Ashley, Crittenden, and Cross Counties

December 22, 2014

Thanks to the addressing officials in Ashley, Crittenden and Cross Counties, the Arkansas Centerline File is updated on GeoStor.  This brings the total number of counties updated on GeoStor in 2014 to 37.

To check out the status of the Arkansas Centerline File, please visit

To download the data:

To download from FTP:

Thanks to Ashley, Crittenden and Cross Counties and all of the state’s addressing officials for providing their data for public use on GeoStor!

Christmas Gift to the State: Completion of the Connect-Arkansas Address Point Project

December 18, 2014

The Arkansas GIS Office — in partnership with our friends at Connect-Arkansas and numerous counties — are pleased to announce the publication of the Address Point File for Ouachita County.  This data set is the final in a series of publications comprised of counties engaged in creating address point data to support Connect-Arkansas’ mission: to analyze and promote adoption and use of broadband in Arkansas. The project was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The project began in 2011 and included address point data development in twenty-eight counties.  At the close of 2013 officials from Connect-Arkansas had the vision to reallocate unspent funds from other facets of the project to include address point development in eight additional counties bringing the overall total to thirty-six counties!


Address Point Status Map (Click Image to View)


The file is used to support address geocoding of broadband consumers and to aid in identifying locations of reported internet speed and service providers.  The data supports decision making on broadband policy now and into the future.  Beyond the broadband application the data is used by public safety officials, E9-1-1 officials and many others. The data also serves as the primary index for a statewide geocoding locator service that is published for users to access.  The ways in which the geocoding service are now used are too long to list.

With this publication only eleven counties in the state remain incomplete.  The whole effort builds on basic principles set out by the State GIS Board: to support economic development by reducing duplication of effort, coordinating the development of framework GIS data and publishing it for others to use.  Shelby Johnson, State Geographic Information Officer states, “It’s a remarkable thing, here at the Holidays.  This data was built for the broadband program mostly by 9-1-1 staff in the counties.  They’ve shared it with the State and then we share it with the public and commercial organizations. Now with so many businesses in the retail and service economy using smart phones and online mapping it’s going to play a major role in making sure that package gets there on time.  It’s a perfect example of two things we say a lot:  the best data is local data because it is created at the source and we should create it once and share it a bunch.”

GIS staff have reviewed the project’s total funding and estimate the Connect-Arkansas investment per record value at around $2.79 per address point. That figure does not account for personnel time by county and state employees coordinating on the project together.  While the file stores over 1.3 million records at this time, there is still work to be done. The state must continue to press forward to secure 100% address point coverage for the state and to assure the maintenance for the previously published counties. Nevertheless, this is a momentous occasion for the State of Arkansas and a wonderful Christmas present to all statewide stake holders; Merry Christmas!

Arkansas Centerline File Updates: Baxter, Garland, Hot Spring, and Sevier Counties

December 15, 2014

Thanks to the addressing officials in Baxter, Garland, Hot Spring, and Sevier Counties, the Arkansas Centerline File is updated on GeoStor.  This brings the total number of counties updated on GeoStor in 2014 to 34 . To check out the status of the Arkansas Centerline File, please visit

To download the data:

To download from FTP:

Thanks to Baxter, Garland, Hot Spring, and Sevier Counties and all of the state’s addressing officials for providing their data for public use on GeoStor!


October 15, 2014

LITTLE ROCK –  Governor Mike Beebe announced the following appointments to the State GIS Board on October 14, 2014.

Sharon Hawkins, of Little Rock, her appointment expires August 1, 2018. Sharon replaces Jonathan Sweeney.

William “Grant” Tennille, of Little Rock, His appointment expires August 1, 2018. Grant replaces Bekki White.

Earlier, in September the Governor appointed Matthew Hodges, of Little Rock. His appointment expires August 1, 2018. Matt replaces Tracy Moy.

Both Tracy Moy and Bekki White had served two full terms (eight years) and were no longer eligible to serve as state agency representatives.  Jon Sweeney had served one full term (four years) and declined reappointment as he anticipates the possibility of retirement in the next four years.

“These outgoing Board members served the State exceptionally well,” said Shelby Johnson, State Geographic Information Officer.  Highlights during their terms on the Board included; oversight on the establishment of the Arkansas Geographic Information Office as a State Agency, creation of a Strategic Plan, completion of the statewide centerline file, the launch of the parcel mapping grant program and numerous other activities.

These appointments finalize the representation by three State Agencies required by the Board’s enabling legislation.

On news of the appointments, GIS Board Chair, Dr. Margaret McMillan stated, “On behalf of the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems board, I would like to welcome our new members. We are excited about the expertise that Matt Hodges, Sharon Hawkins and Grant Tenille bring to the board. We look forward to their contributions to helping our state make the best use of spatial information for solving problems.”

More information about the new Board is located here.

Little Things Mean More in the Right Way

September 12, 2014

Today I signed a procurement document that will impact every constituent of the agency for the next decade, and most of them will never ever know it. This document was the final step in a long process to changing how GeoStor will exist in the future. Now comes the hard work of platform, interface, and data migration. We held these GeoStor concepts as major cornerstones for the new version:

  • Communication
  • Responsive Design
  • Dissemination
  • Content Management

It is bold and ambitious. GeoStor has been the same since 2006 and it is past time for a makeover.  I expect when we roll the whole thing out it will fall into the age old adage; “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” But that activity was Bureaucratic, perfunctory. I was pleased but not fulfilled.

I will tell you what really fulfilled me today. Earlier this week a constituent in a County had corresponded with our office about a recurring problem we hear, “all the time,” her physical address had been rejected by another government agency, a property insurance company and an online seller. She wondered, “If all these entities claim they can’t find me, then will 911 service be able to find me when I really need it?”

Staff did a bit of research and concluded, the authenticated local data, supported the constituent’s claim and her physical address was legitimate and had been assigned. Unfortunately, corporate USA is too reliant on too many commercial products that are rooted in data sourced from the Postal Service. Corporate USA doesn’t have time to deal with roughly 3,000 counties in the US who, mostly, could supply them with authentic data. Thankfully, I do with 75 of them. We’ve had a decade long relationship with the 911 Coordinator in this County. I knew exactly who to dial. She confirmed the physical address on County letterhead in less than 15 minutes and I was then able to forward it to our colleague who I know is authorized to correct the Postal Service record. [By the way, the constituent receives mail at a Post Office BOX back in town, which is unrelated to her Physical Address. Her Physical Address is assigned by the 911 who might send a law officer or a fire truck to the address. ]

Dealing with this one single address took longer than the signature process on the procurement for GeoStor but it was far more fulfilling. We helped one person know that in the future her Physical Address can be served by both the fire truck and Corporate USA.

It is called GIS Coordination. It is all about location. It is what we do for individual constituents and it means more in the right way.

State Geographic Information Officer

State Geographic Information Officer

GIO’s successful Cordinator’s horrible marketers

August 21, 2014

Earlier today there was some traffic via social media that talked about our office releasing address data via GitHub. The news was genuinely complementary and we certainly appreciated the coverage.

The interesting part to us is that this really wasn’t news at all. You see we’ve been working closely with our counties in Arkansas for a good number of years. We first began publishing address point data in 2009 and have steadily worked with counties since then to get the reminder of our state completed and published. We are not finished yet but the work is steadily progressing. And, we will publish the data when it is completed for others to consume, share, and utilize. It’s really important for public safety and also important for economic development.

This just goes to show that GIO’s in the states are pretty good at coordinating GIS data development but not so good at marketing that information once built.

Like some of you reading this I was extremely excited about the address bounty that was released by the US open data initiative. That bit of effort will help shed light on states where address data is being built coordinated and published. Thanks USODI and thanks to the GitHub community for the kinds words. We’ve been at this for a while and it’s nice to see the acknowledgement.

The real credit goes to those front line workers in the city and county offices across our state and their vendors who have also put in hard work to create this data for a common purpose. Shared in a common platform and publish it for others to use.

For more on why states are doing this head here.

Mark Your Calendars: GIS Board Meeting, Sept. 3

August 6, 2014

Please mark you calendars for the GIS Board meeting on September 3, 2014 at Ozarka College, 1800 College Dr. Mountain View, AR.

The agenda is packed and some highlights include: Proposed Legislation for 2015 Address Database and Municipal Boundaries; updates on GeoStor, the Local 911 Systems Blue Ribbon Committee, and the Parcel Mapping Project; Review/ Report Card of the 2010 Strategic Plan; Priorities for the next five years, and; Revision of the Arkansas Centerline File Standard.

Please see the full draft agenda here:

This meeting is of great strategic importance regarding the next five-to-ten years of GIS in Arkansas. As always, your attendance is welcome and encouraged.  We hope to see you there.

A Benchmark in the Early Days of GeoStor

June 27, 2014

Often, I fail to take a minute and look at back at where we have been as GIS community in Arkansas. Our state’s collective GIS story is pretty fascinating.

I was rummaging through a box at my desk after a recent move and ran across this photo which marks a very important benchmark in the history of GeoStor.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee presenting General Improvement Fund to UofA CAST Jim Farley

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee presenting General Improvement Fund Check to Jim Farley, U of A CAST.

The photo was taken in the Governor’s Conference room and although it was not dated on the back my guess is that it was taken in the summer of 1999.  (Board Meeting Minutes here seem to corroborate with that date.)  I thought I would write down a few memories of the people in the picture and my perspective on the role they played in my personal and professional life. I think it is worth telling.

Back row from left to right Michael Hipp, Dr. Fred Limp, Shelby Johnson, Randy Jones, Cathie Matthews, & Bill Bush

Front row from let to right Suzanne Wiley, Senator Sue Madison, Representative Jan Judy, Governor Mike Huckabee, Jim Farley, & Susan Norton

Michael Hipp became the new Director of the Arkansas Department of Computer Services in 1996 or 1997. He was appointed by Governor Huckabee.  Shortly after he started he began a sweeping makeover of the agency that started with renaming the agency to become the Department of Information Systems. He took another bold step by reforming a substantial part of the enabling legislation that created the agency. One important move included creating the Office of Information Technology. He met with leaders from the Arkansas GIS Users Forum in 1996 prior the 1997 legislative session and took a key step to advocate for including GIS in Act 914 of the 1997 legislation. Michael recruited Susan (Cromwell) Norton (far right) to lead the Office of Information Technology.

Fred Limp was the Chair of the State Mapping and Land Records Modernization Advisory Board. He was also the Director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) and remains an important mentor in my life. Fred was a principal author of the report to Governor Jim Guy Tucker that led to the creation of the GIS Board we have today. Next year the report will be 20 years old but the key principles written there are still relevant. Fred continues to serve the University of Arkansas and has forgotten more about GIS than most people will ever know. Fred, along with Jim Farley gave me my first GIS job at CAST where I fell in love with this work called GIS. I’ll be forever grateful to them both.  The initial versions of GeoStor were created at CAST, and the system operated there for a few years until we had a stronger footing here at the Capitol.

I’m next in the photo and one lucky guy. I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to play several roles. I served as a GIS outreach staff at CAST and worked under Fred and Jim. That work prepared for me the role I serve now. I was Chair of the Arkansas GIS Users Forum in 1995, and 1996, if my memory is correct. Then, in 1998 Governor Huckabee appointed me to what was titled, the State Land Information Board.  I only served as a Board Member for a very short period of time.  I became acquainted with Susan who encouraged me to tackle the newly created job at the Department of Information Systems, called the State Land Information Coordinator. That position was cited in the 1994 report and was later renamed, State Geographic Information Officer. I was chosen to for the job in 1999 and have been here since.

The next person is Randy Jones. Jones is a long time member of the Arkansas Society of Professional Surveyors. At the time of this photo he was serving as a member of the State Land Information Board. Under his leadership First Electric Cooperative became one of the state’s leading electric power utilities to adopt GIS, and use it in daily operations. He was keen to understand how the technology would benefit Professional Surveyors and many others. Randy was a big fan of the concept of having GIS in a clearinghouse where it could be accessed by everyone. Randy still works at First Electric and when time permits he continues to take on land surveying work.

Next is Cathie Matthews.  Cathie was appointed to the Board by Governor Huckabee.  She served on the Board during the formative years as a state agency appointee.  Cathie remains the Director of the Arkansas Department of Heritage, which includes Historic Preservation, and Natural Heritage.  Historic Preservation, and Natural Heritage are two divisions of Cathie’s agency, whose work is an ongoing beneficiary of GeoStor.

To Cathie’s right is Bill Bush.  Bill served as the State Geologist.  In fact, he was only the 4th Director the Arkansas Geological Survey has ever known.  At the time I believe the agency was called the Arkansas Geological Commission, but today is called the Arkansas Geological Survey.  During these years the State Surveyor’s Office was organized under Bill’s agency as well.  Through both these organizations Bill brought a lot of experience to the table.  Bill had been in state government a good number of years.  He served two terms on the Board, and for a period of time, also as Chair.  He was instrumental in advising the Board on strategy for getting things done within the context of state government.  In those days, every discussion about GIS data revolved around the USGS Topographic Quad Map, and Bill was an expert on that topic.  He also had valuable experience working with the USGS on collaborative projects.  He had a good understanding of the need for a single statewide database of GIS data. Today Bill maintains an active registration as a professional geologist.

On the front row, far left is Suzanne Wiley.  Suzanne was involved in the earliest meetings of the GIS user community in Arkansas.  She was a non-voting member of the State Mapping and Land Records Modernization Advisory Board.   She was then appointed to the Board in 1999 by Governor Huckabee.  During her period of service I believe Suzanne served as Vice-Chair and Chair, headed up numerous sub-committees and authored several documents that were needed by the Board.  One of the most important documents she helped draft was titled, “Technical Objectives of GeoStor the Arkansas Spatial Data Infrastructure.”  The document was a report to the Board that was adopted by the Board in 1998.  Since the state had never had a GIS clearinghouse this document was a blueprint for what GeoStor should be able to do.  It did not layout the technical architecture but instead described in high level terms how the system should function and what services the system should offer to users.  I worked with her on this document and it ultimately guided how GeoStor would work.  Suzanne remains active in the GIS community and is one of my very good friends.

Next is Senator Sue Madison who represented the northwest Arkansas Senate District that included the University of Arkansas. She always had an interest in GIS and later used the technology to support analysis for interests in her district. On occasion I get to see her and she always remembers our work on GIS policy.  She was also interested in the GIS outreach work that was done by CAST.  In those days General Improvement Funding could be directed to projects by members and she was successful in using her office to advocate funding for GeoStor and other GIS projects later.

Representative Jan Judy represented the northwest Arkansas House District that included the Univer sity of Arkansas. She was the House side support for the General Improvement Funding that she and Senator Madison supported for the invention of GeoStor.  I don’t remember for certain but believe she was also the House side sponsor for some other General Improvement Funding projects that came later.  I always enjoyed seeing her, and she always remembered our work in GIS every time I had an occasion to meet her.

Of course next in line is Governor Mike Huckabee.  Although this photo was the seedling event for funding GeoStor it was not the last time our state would benefit from his interest in the technology.  Governor Huckabee was successful in serving out the remainder of Governor Tucker’s term.  He was then successful in serving two more full terms making for one of the only Governor’s in the modern era to serve ten years.  In those years he was able to provide General Improvement Funding to spark a statewide digital-ortho program in 2001 and again in 2006.  He also provided other funding for GeoStor and was an advocate for using GIS in state government.

Governor Huckebee is presenting the check to Jim Farley.  Jim is the “father” of GeoStor, if you will.  It was his brain child that an automated GIS data warehouse and distribution system could be programmed.  The lynch pin in creating a working concept, was of course funding, to figure out the research, and prove the concept.  Jim spent a good number of years at CAST and later spent time working with a number of companies in the geospatial industry.  I think at one time or another he has worked for Oracle, Trimble, Lecia, and  maybe Intergraph, I can’t remember for sure.  Maybe a reader can correct me.   I understand Jim and family still reside in northwest Arkansas.

Last, and definitely not least, is Susan Norton.  As I mentioned earlier, Susan was at the Department of Information Systems, and her challenge was to organize and lead the Office of Information Technology.  At that point in time, every state was investing heavily in technology, but all this activity was seemingly uncoordinated, and with little thought given to standards, policy or reducing duplication through cooperative procurement.  This was my take on the mission of OIT; to identify common technologies that many agencies needed, and then identify a solution.  Of course with GIS data being a share, and share-alike commodity, there was a natural fit with Susan’s mission.  I will always owe a personal thanks to Susan for my job, and helping steer me in the early years of GeoStor, and the infancy of the agency.  Susan also served as Chair of the GIS Board for a year or two.  In 2005 or 2006 she departed state government to head to northwest Arkansas and work in public education.  Today Susan is still active with GIS. She is the Executive Director for Fayettteville Public Schools Technology.  They use GIS every day there.  She’s also heavily involved with  the Mid-America GIS Consortium and I think will be the Chair in 2014-2015.

Here we are, this many years later.  GeoStor started as big research idea, got funded, and has been operational in Little Rock since 2005.   There is no telling how much data has been served through this platform.    In 1999 we never dreamed of using a system like this on our telephones, but that’s the next step in the evolution of the system.  I hope ten years from now I’ll have the chance to look back again and remember where we’ve been.

POSTSCRIPT: My good friend Susan Norton provided a couple of photos shortly after publishing this article.  Susan left the State to work in Fayetteville in 2001.  She had the photo and honorary certificate framed and placed on her wall.  The handwritten text on the napkin reads, “Whereas, this recognition would be incomplete without the agreement of your Geospatial Pals from Kansas… Therefore we certainly do agree and appreciate you.”

Signed Richard D. Miller and Ivan L. Weichert

20140630-114902-42542500.jpg 20140630-114903-42543314.jpg




GIS & CAD Survey for Local 911 Blue Ribbon Committee

June 26, 2014

The Arkansas Geographic Information Office is seeking your help in filling out a survey on current 911 systems and GIS data used in statewide 911 dispatch centers.  Information collected in this survey will be summarized and reported to the Legislative Local 911 Systems Blue Ribbon Committee.

The committee was created by Act 1171 of the 89th General Assembly. Its purpose is to perform a comprehensive study of local 911 systems, including equipment, training, staffing, funding, and capabilities of 911 PSAPs/systems and to make recommendations for a statewide network that is efficient and effective.  This survey focuses on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) capabilities.

The survey can be accessed at the following link:

We are sending this announcement to as many contacts as we have available.  If you are not the appropriate contact to respond to the survey for your jurisdiction please forward this request to the appropriate individual.

Thank you for your time in responding.

.gps to .kml Data Conversion Process

March 17, 2014

On January 31, 2014, an Arkansas Forestry Commission plane was reported missing in western Arkansas.  The plane was on a routine forest fire patrol mission when the pilot failed to check in at one of his checkpoints.  The search started out local, but quickly grew into the largest search and rescue mission in Arkansas history.  The plane was eventually recovered on February 11, 2014.  Regretfully, Jake Harrell, the pilot of the plane, did not survive the crash.

With the search area consisting of 950,000 acres, GIS was an essential tool in the rescue efforts.  A critical component of the GIS data collected was tracking the aircraft flight paths.  This allowed pilots and operation planners to efficiently plan flight paths to avoid duplication of effort.  The data from the Arkansas National Guard UH-60’s (Blackhawk) and UH-72’s (Lakota) proved to be a challenge.  A few of these helicopters were equipped with an Electronic Data Manager, or EDM (  This EDM’s internal GPS collected the helicopters location in preset intervals.  At first, the data was given to the GIS analyst on the ground in paper map format with small red dots representing the GPS breadcrumbs from EDM which annotated the helicopters locations.  This formatting required GIS analysts to georeference the paper maps and digitize the individual flight paths.  Essentially, it was a connect-the-dots process.  This method was time consuming and not always accurate.  In the haste and confusion of the search and rescue mission, a digitized format of the EDM’s GPS breadcrumbs was never acquired.

Once the mission was over we were able to collaborate with the Arkansas National Guard and learn that the EDM produces a .gps file.  The .gps file contains the flight path data and can easily be converted into common GIS file formats (.kml) for easier use.  The link to this document is a step-by-step guide for how to convert a .gps to .kml.

For any questions regarding this post, please contact Seth LeMaster at or 501-682-2929.

A special thanks to Wes Cleland (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission) and Justin Mallett and Eric Myers (Arkansas Forestry Commission).  Their time and effort was the driving force for GIS for the entire search and rescue mission.