HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - On June 2, Executive Director of the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission Carrie Fellows provided the freeholder board with updates on the Division of Planning and Land Use, as well as projects and programming to benefit emergency operations through the use of advanced global mapping and interactive software.

Fellows spoke about the many contributions of staff in Hunterdon County’s talented GIS Division (Geographic Information System), and their work across a multitude of county departments to track, provide and organize data up-to-the-minute. Geospatial data analysis is used to support departmental and county government decisions, and to identify locations for project work or where to allocate resources.

“The GIS Division members are unsung heroes and they’ve been extremely busy,” Fellows said. “Our GIS Coordinator Patricia (Patti) Leidner created a COVID-19 interactive dashboard web-mapping app that you see on the county’s website with the Health Department and OEM data and information. This displays the daily case count by Hunterdon municipality, with graphs, maps and links to related websites. She has also worked to troubleshoot our county departments’ server and software upgrades and restore several key web-mapping apps reflected by the changes, especially for the elections and the e-maps used to verify voter registration eligibility.”

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Staff have participated in much free training in preparation for the transition to a major upgrade on to the ArcGIS software platform. ArcGIS is maintained by supplier Esri, the Environmental Systems Research Institute.

The Hunterdon GIS Division also recently created an interactive map of Hunterdon County’s broad base of food producers and food pantries, “to help our residents find and access food resources, which are both posted on the county website,” Fellows said.

She said another project is reviewing the state’s documents for compliance with “Next Generation 911,” which would include New Jersey DOT and other state data, and, on the national level, direction by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to State of New Jersey GIS Information Officer Dr. Andrew T. Rowan, GIS functions and capabilities to enable NextGen 911 will include wireless call routing based on device location; a wireless location converted to dispatchable address by reverse geocoding; landline call routing based on point-in-poly lookup of address; and determination of police/fire/EMS proximity.

Where appropriate, GIS staff have been responding to municipal data requests throughout the county. In the larger picture, County GIS staff are updating Hunterdon’s Land Development Standards road classification map, and have been providing mapping to local police sections of the Office of Emergency Management for a proposed, consolidated Local Radio Region.

Fellows said this building network would equal preparedness for disruptions or increases in dispatch calls in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Fellows, many of the county staff in the Division of Planning and Land Use adapted well to working remotely, and several projects were caught up during the spring and the pandemic’s shutdown of offices. Routine work has been well-managed and staff in planning and land use have also worked on “unique demands and initiatives related to the public health emergency,” she said.

State funded re-grants for the Cultural & Heritage Commission Local Arts Program (LAP, for performing and visual arts) in Hunterdon County were distributed electronically. The re-grantees for this Arts programming and for the local history initiative were celebrated with resolutions approved by the freeholder board at their Feb. 18 meeting.

“To assist struggling county-based nonprofits and re-grantees that were shut down due to the pandemic state of emergency, (including the Flemington DIY on Main Street, ShowKids Invitational Theatre, Inc., River Union Stage, Hunterdon Musical Arts and the Hunterdon Harmonizers chorus), the New Jersey State Council on the Arts has released their interim award payments to the county, which in turn go right to our re-grantees under our Local Arts Program,” Fellows said. “The re-grantees are receiving both their interim award payment as well as their initial awards, so as of now they’ll be in receipt of 75 percent of their grants. Usually they would not get their interim payments until July.”

Fellows also announced that parks and recreation’s staff have been very creative with a virtual summer camp program that begins July 13, and runs through Aug. 14, and which will feature daily activities and content, including do-at-home projects for children to explore nature in their own backyard.

While programming is not live and in-person, the parks remain a resource for county residents. Restrooms at Deer Path Park and Echo Hill Park are open daily from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., and protocols are advised.

“The county continues to message the use of parks by visitors safely and mindfully, keeping physical distancing, reduced parking capacities and use of masks and face coverings in situations where physical distance is not feasible, such as along some narrow trails or at restroom areas,” Fellows said. “In response to suspension of many of its programs, the County Division of Parks and Recreation has really stepped up its game with virtual programs and distance learning opportunities for our constituents. Staff, including Hunterdon County Park Natural Tom Sheppard, have been providing numerous learning and tour opportunities since March through the parks department website and Facebook page.”

Fellows also noted that Rutgers Cooperative Extension science-based education activities and learning opportunities (including 4-H Youth Development) have been expanded online, on Facebook and with new virtual games. The Cooperative Extension normally operates in Flemington at the County’s Route 12 complex, Building No. 2.