Fairfax Upgrades Technology with Population Growth

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

FAIRFAX, Iowa - City leaders are navigating through a high-tech computerized map of the city's infrastructure.

The city, which lies just west of Cedar Rapids, is using new technology to stay ahead of the booming population. The number of people living in Fairfax more than doubled from the 2000 to the 2010 census.

"In the 2010 census, we were at 2,123, and we've continued to build houses since then," said Fairfax Mayor Jason Rabe.

City leaders know with that growth, the good ole days are over.

"The old system you had ten drawers of maps and flipping to find the right map for the right thing you want, it's a nightmare," said City of Fairfax Maintenance Department's Lynn Miller.

Now those maps, some of which date to the early 1900's, just aren't enough.

"The faster growth you have, the harder it is to keep up on those records and your infrastructure needs," said Fairfax City Clerk Cynthia Stimson.

The city is logging into the 21st century with a new computerized database system for the infrastructure. It's a satellite image of the city with "layers" of different city systems. The technology maps out water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer utilities for the entire city.

City worker can see everything from fire hydrants to valves within the map.

"You can click on those different items, whether it's a manhole or fire hydrant or water line and to see what it's made of, what issues it has had [and] we can add video to that," Mayor Rabe said.

The mayor said the new technology is one way the city is adapting to its increase in population, especially as new housing developments pop up and as the city considers future annexations.

"That great balloon in growth probably wasn't expected, so we've had to somewhat be reactionary but now we can start planning for that growth," Mayor Rabe said.

City leaders made the move to spend about $40,000 of local option sales tax money on the upgrade, and they said it was just the beginning.

"Eventually we will have people out there with tablets and they can get to the sites and just pull up the site map right then on the tablet, and they''ll be like, 'okay there's this here and that there'," Mayor Rabe said.

In the future, the new system will map out city streets, information for zoning and even trees.
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