That's not a Ghostbuster you spied on South Whitehall's streets in a bright yellow safety vest with an antenna pack.
That's Lehigh University graduate Sofia Kehyaian, who's been hired by the township for $17 an hour this summer to begin mapping South Whitehall's street signs, traffic lights, water and sewer lines, fire hydrants, shutoffs -- everything the township provides service to.
It's part of a years-long project to build a database of the township's infrastructure, and create maps, by using a geographic information system (GIS). The system will allow the township to capture and manage the information -- and better respond to problems, officials said.
Tony Ganguzza, the township's director of administration, said the database will allow for the township to be more efficient, particularly in responding to problems such as a water main break. It will provide locations, as well as elevations, for such things as water and sewer lines.
Though the township has paper maps of its infrastructure, they are 30 to 60 years old, and in some cases, probably contain inaccurate information, officials said. By going out and checking locations, the township can also make note of problems, and remedy them.
"I think we're better off starting from ground zero and getting the most accurate information we can," Ganguzza said.
On a recent sunny afternoon, Kehyaian, 21, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and is continuing her studies at Lehigh University, was at N. 30th and Fairmont streets in South Whitehall to take measurements. She used a hand-held GPS unit to locate and map water shutoff valves to homes. Kehyaian said the antenna, which shot up from the back of her safety vest, improved the accuracy as she marked precise locations.
She noted a few problems, where grass had grown over a shutoff valve and a spot where a valve was missing a cap.
No residents came out to talk with her as she stood at the curb lines, but Kehyaian said that people often ask her what she's up to. "Are they going to build something?" she said they often want to know.
Jerry Charvala, the township's Group Leader for water, sewer and the GIS project, said the work can be tedious, but with the GPS unit, it only takes a couple minutes to get a location and mark it, before moving on. Still, the project is expected to take two to four years.
"We want to do it right," he said.
The township has hired another person who will take up Kehyaian's work in the fall.
"Our whole goal is to be more efficient...so we can keep the tax base down," Charvala said.
The public works department, for example, will be able to generate work orders from the new system, and locate water lines, even in a heavy snowfall, he said. Employees in the field will have a computer tablet that, with a click, will allow them to quickly see all sorts of data, such as what homes might be affected by a water main break. Eventually, they will be able to generate an email to all the homes affected by that break, he said.
Residents too, perhaps finding themselves snowbound in winter, will be able to go online to find out where the snowplows are -- and how soon they are likely to reach their street.