Information Technology Public Works

An intersection of tech and tax dollars: How Sugar Land Public Works efficiently improves city infrastructure

The City of Sugar Land’s Public Works and Information Technology departments have partnered to incorporate mapping data into their maintenance workflow to repair and maintain city infrastructure like fire hydrants, manholes, valves, and inlets more efficiently.

City staff works on a total of 5,216 hydrants, 16,768 sanitary manholes, 15,836 water system valves, 13,618 stormwater inlets, and 13,293 stormwater manholes to document any defects and ensure that these pieces of infrastructure are in working order. The findings from these inspections are then uploaded onto an online dashboard and used to prioritize repairs.

This is the Hydrant Inspection Map that supervisors use to track hydrant statuses and the progress of the work throughout the year.

Sugar Land Streets and Drainage Superintendent Ryon Bell said that the departments do preventative maintenance on the hydrants twice a year and valves, manholes, and inlets once a year.

“Seeing that there was a more efficient way of completing these assessments, Sugar Land’s information technology department stepped in and created an interactive map Public Works employees could use to collect data on their phones, eliminating the need for physical documentation,” Sugar Land GIS Specialist Trevor Surface said.

Hydrant inspection Field Maps – this is what the city’s field workers see and use to collect data which is then uploaded onto a map and dashboard.
Manhole inspection dashboard
Stormwater inlet inspection dashboard

Once Field Maps, as the mapping app is called, is completed, the data gets put into a map and dashboard that Information Technology and Public Works has access to. The app includes information on where damage is, what kind of defect and how many inspections have been completed.

“We take residents calls and recommendations and match that with the assessments and then use the data to make informed decisions on where we’re using city revenue and investing tax dollars,” Bell said. “By having the data on a map, Public Works is able to tactfully target the areas with the greatest need.”

For hydrants specifically, Field Maps is able to show city staff which hydrants are out of service and thus, need to be fixed immediately. Further, the city is required to check each hydrant in the city twice a year for insurance purposes.

“As we collect more data over the years, we can begin to predict neighborhoods’ infrastructure needs, especially with the older neighborhoods, which will help us make more informed decisions about our budget and priorities,” said Surface.

The city has seen many benefits in their decision to implement Field Maps. By using Field Maps, Public Works can ensure that they document the whole city more accurately than with paper maps. Before Field Maps, the city utilized a paper maps, but Surface said that Field Maps is easier for field workers to fill out and ensure that the information is entered correctly. Further, implementing this workflow didn’t cost the city anything.

“We have the ability to put parameters on the answers, cutting down on mistakes and increasing the trust in the data,” Surface said.

In the future, Surface and Bell see plenty of opportunities for Public Works to use of Field Maps as they grow. Surface hopes to add an augmented reality feature that would allow city staff to, for example, know exactly where a manhole is located, even if it’s covered by brush or in a homeowner’s yard.