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NMSU County College offers GIS specialist certification, addressing workshop

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. New Mexico municipal, county, tribal and state personnel learned what the recently approved United States Thoroughfare, Landmark and Postal Address Data Standard requires of their governing body during a workshop hosted by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service's NM EDGE.


The training was provided by one of the authors of the standard, Martha McCart-Wells. McCart-Wells is with Spatial Focus, a geo-data architect firm in Maryland, and is past president of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association. URISA and the National Emergency Number Association sponsored the standard that was approved by the Federal Geographic Data Committee on Feb. 9.

Participants in the addressing workshop earned credits toward a New Mexico Certified GIS Specialist designation through NM EDGE's County College. They must complete 28 classes from a requirement list that includes topics such as the origin of the GIS profession, vector data input, understanding coordinated systems and projections, metadata, basic topology and ethical use of GIS.

"The issue of addressing and building a uniform database crosses the lines of municipal, county and states government. We are excited that NM EDGE could provide this training and that all levels of government in our state participated," said Mary DeLorenzo, director of New Mexico Education Designed to Generate Excellence, of the 45 participants.

"It's great that through NM EDGE and County College we have a mechanism through which we could actually bring this class to New Mexico. This workshop is normally offered only at national conferences," said Erle Wright, data integration administrator for Santa Fe County and chairman of the New Mexico Association of Counties' geographic information system (GIS) and addressing affiliate.

Physical location addresses are central to what local government does. According to McCart-Wells, 85 to 90 percent of local government data has an address associated with it.

"Everything that we do as a local government is embedded with addresses - property taxes, voter registration, public school enrollment, emergency response. Typically, there is no one person in a local government who is in charge of them. Instead each department or agency has its own address database program," McCart-Wells said.

The United States Thoroughfare, Landmark and Postal Address Data Standard provides a systematic, consistent basis for recording all addresses in the United States. It defines the elements needed to compose addresses and store them within databases and geographic information systems.

"Many times, one system will spell out the type of thoroughfare, such as street or avenue, and another will abbreviate it," McCart-Wells said. "Computer systems many times do not recognize these differences that indicate the same location. So the systems cannot share the information. This is the type of issue the standard addresses."

Glen Condon, New Mexico E-911 GIS manager with the state's Department of Finance and Administration, is involved with building a state-wide address database.

"We have to have uniformity for a state-wide system to work," Condon said. "The participants in this workshop can see that this is really something that is being tackled on a national level."

With the purpose of encouraging "better government through education," NM EDGE is an expansion of County College, which began in 2002 as a dream of the late Sam Montoya, the former executive director of New Mexico Association of Counties. At the time, Montoya asked the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service to develop an educational program for New Mexico's government officials and employees.

NM EDGE continues to expand its program. Paul Gutierrez, current executive director of NMAC, and Jon Boren, NMSU associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension Service, have been instrumental in ensuring NM EDGE's expansion into its current role under the direction of DeLorenzo.