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Strange symbols on street part of mapping plan

February 04, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown residents might suspect they've become part of an "X-Files" episode when strange symbols appear on city streets in the coming weeks.

Have no fear.

It's all part of a government plot to map city utilities so city employees, and eventually the public, will have access to better property and utility maps.

City workers will begin painting the large white symbols on city streets today, said Assistant City Engineer Rodney Tissue.

Nine different types of symbols, each about 2- to 3-feet in diameter, will be painted at or near the locations of 10,000 different utility system parts, Tissue said.

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In mid-March, a low-flying plane will spend about two hours aerially photographing the city and some Washington County neighborhoods served by the city's Water Pollution Control department, he said.

The neighborhoods involved in the work include Brightwood Acres East, Londontowne and near Wesel Boulevard.

The symbols will pinpoint the locations of utility components such as manholes, water valves, inlets, telephone poles, fire hydrants, street lights and transformers, Tissue said.

The symbols will be in the shape of X's, plus signs, circles with holes in the middle, brackets and ribbons, among others.

Another 15,000 utility components also will be photographed for mapping, but are large enough they don't need to be marked with a symbol, he said.

Most of the painting will be done during daylight hours, but markings on major roads might be done at night or on the weekend, Tissue said. Most of the symbols will be painted in city streets and alleys.

The city's computerized Geographic Information System will map out city buildings, roads and utilities, making it easier for the city to keep more accurate property and utility maps, he said.

One day, a potential developer will be able to get a map of a specific lot and find out whether it has certain utilities and if so, where, Tissue said.

Also, residents will be able to obtain accurate maps of their properties, he said.

The city has a lot of this information available now, but the computer system will improve its accuracy, and make it easier to access and keep up to date, Tissue said.

Aerial photographs were last taken of Hagerstown in 1982, Tissue said.

The city is offsetting the $30,000 cost of the flight to map the city with a $20,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Tissue said. The remaining $10,000 will come from the general fund and the city's utilities.

It will take about two months for the water-based paint to wear off, Tissue said.

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