Trucks get tagged

Soon, when Wilton snow plows head out to clear the roads during a storm, town officials will be able to tell where each is at any time.

That has not been possible until funds to equip the trucks recently became available from a state grant.

The Board of Selectmen heard a report on the initiative as well as a regional geographic information system (GIS) at its meeting Monday, Sept. 16. Both projects are supported by the Southwest Regional Planning Association (SWRPA).

A GIS is a blend of a visual “map and a data set,” said Alex Karmen, a senior transportation planner at SWRPA, “that can be used to improve the service of many different town departments” as they relate to transportation systems. An example of a GIS program is Google Maps.

Mr. Karmen said the GIS program was begun in April, when SWRPA hired a vendor to capture aerial imagery of its eight member towns, including Wilton.

He said the vendor captured:

• High-resolution vertical air imagery (straight-down images);

• 45-degree oblique air imagery (images taken at a 45-degree angle);

• 40-scale images to capture photo identifiable landmarks.

• One-foot contour data to identify the rise and fall of land.

SWRPA and its vendor believe the GIS program will be completed by the end of the year, culminating in a GIS clearinghouse and data set that can be used by the general public and any member town.

The project was granted $2.15 million by the state Office of Policy Management thanks to a program that supports intertown cooperation. However, the GIS did not end up costing the full amount of the grant, so SWRPA set out to find a way to put those funds to use.

Its solution, Mr. Karmen said, was to invest in GPS devices to track public works vehicles. This is a pilot program in Wilton, Weston and Westport that will add to those towns’ list of trackable vehicles, which already include police and fire vehicles.

Trucks used to clear roads during major storms, said Wilton Public Works head Thomas Thurkettle, as well as backhoes and loaders can now be tracked by computers in the town’s Emergency Operations Command center.

First Selectman Bill Brennan supported the use of funds, saying, “Right now, we don’t know where loaders or backhoes are during a storm like Sandy. This will be a major improvement to the EOC.”