New program makes fixing sidewalks easier for Jefferson City

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JEFFERSON CITY - New software will make infrastructure projects in Jefferson City easier to manage, more cost effective and more accessible to the public.

The Sidewalk Management System, or SMS, is a collaboration between Jefferson City's departments of Public Works, Planning and Protective Services and the Capital Region Medical Center.

Though the program focuses on sidewalk repair and expansion, it expanded to become a database for sidewalk, storm water, waste water and emergency management needs for the whole city.

"The system has taken our sidewalk inventory and digitized it essentially," said Matt Morasch, Public Works director. 

Morasch said the biggest benefit from the new system is its ability to consolidate so much information. With SMS, the city can determine when a location has multiple projects that need completing, and how it can work on both simultaneously.

"When we combine all those layers, we can look and say, 'ok we're doing some overlay work anyway, we have this sidewalk need and a waste water project with it. Can we gain some economy of scale and do this sidewalk repair at the same time?'" Morasch said.

Morasch has been working on the project with Jefferson City's Geographic Information Systems team for almost a year. The Public Works department began gathering data on every sidewalk in the city five years ago, though there was no central database for their findings.

Five years ago, the city had $2 million in sidewalk repair needs, but only $250,000 available. SMS will help the city better use its limited funds.

"[We're] focusing those improvements on where people are walking the most or likely to be walking, such as near a school," Morasch said.

Jefferson City began implementing the new software after receiving an $8,000 grant from the Capital Region Medical Center. The center had an interest in sidewalk repair to promote healthy living.

"They were concerned about obesity within the city of Jefferson to make sure there are adequate sidewalks within 1000 feet of a school," said Buster Schrage, GIS Manager. "That we way can encourage kids to walk to school and move through out the city."

Schrage added that the software has many unintended but beneficial uses, such as logging fire hydrant pressures and locations for firefighters.

"They can start putting information into the system so whenever they have a fire, they can have much of the [fire hydrant] information that was before inaccessible or unavailable on their iPads," Schrage said.

Community members can go to to see upcoming projects and interactive maps, as well as call the city to report an infrastructure concern, which is added to the SMS database for consideration by a planning team.