Wednesday, October 29, 2014

As a boy my father said that nothing ever changes but the date and the weather.  Well that may not be technically accurate based on the some of the new toys that have graced the surveying profession in the last 20 years.  However our fight for education and stricter entry standards, and minimum standards has been going since our inception.  Is this a bad thing?  NO.  Along the way past presidents and past chairman have all made significant strides towards the changes that we seek.  Some have stayed involved in the shadows; some have offered quiet support; and others have simply chose to ob-stain.  Many believe that we will never achieve our goals because we cannot come together on anything.  What are our goals really?  Can they be achieved? NO!

Our goals are moving targets.  Our goals must change and evolve as our profession does.  We will always struggle with minimum standards because as the profession progresses so must our standard of practice.  Continuing Education has been on the goal list since we formed.  It will remain there until we get the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration to be sympathetic to our cause.  Either that or we seek to become separate from the BTR.  I for one am not overly impressed with the performance of the BTR and its treatment of the surveying community.  A BTR made up of Engineers, Architects, a geologist, and a surveyor; are hardly panel that should be setting the course of our future.  The truth is when it comes to surveying decisions; they all follow the advice of the lead of the survey member.  That puts too much power at his disposal and there is no balance there.  I will say that in recent history we have opened doors and made connections.  However the bureaucratic wheels turn frustratingly slow.

I have been reading through past issues of the Arizona Surveyor.  There is a good history lesson there.  I have read many articles from the past leadership of this organization and it has reminded me that although the great number of surveyors will benefit from our labors.  The work has been and will be done by a motivated few.  That is part that never changes.  I invite anyone interested that has not been involved to jump in.  You don’t have to be elected.  You can take up a cause form a group and get it done.  We have need for volunteers for the newsletter; website; awards and recognition; conference; seminars; legislation and anything else we can think of.  A lot of this can be done at the Chapter level.  Would there be a chapter interested in publishing the newsletter?  Would there be a chapter interested in taking some of the other tasks?  Let’s find out?

We have received word that Phoenix College is dropping the surveying program from its catalog.  This is shame.  Phoenix College would have a problem with enrollment if the BTR would recognize that at least some level of formal surveying education is necessary for today’s practicing surveyor.  Is 30 hrs of surveying credit to much to ask?  Or an Associates certificate?  Apparently it is.  The profession of Surveying in Arizona cannot survive in the 21 century if it continues to live in the shadow of the past.  Just because we have always done that way is not a reason to continue doing it that way.  Our goal should be to make the profession better; not just keep it running.

In closing don’t forget we have elections coming up at the November 15th Board of Directors meeting.  Hope to see you there.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What should be on a Record of Survey

Recently I was involved in a discussion over whether or not easements should be shown on a record of survey.  I was trained in the following way; if during the course of your research you uncover easements that pertain to the property you are surveying then show them. I have got into the habit of trying to show whatever servitudes I can, to the property I am surveying, because I try to provide a service to my clients that goes beyond measuring stuff.  I try to educate my clients about land stewardship and what it means.

I understand there are business decisions that have to be made and liability issues that have to be addressed; but we are a service provider.  What service are we providing if we can't or won't discuss the intricate details of our clients property graphically and educate them.  I doubt very seriously that people hire me because they want to be amazed by my mathematical skills.

They hire me because they want to learn about their property and they want explanations.  I have spent years cultivating relationships with title officers all over the state.  Not escrow officers but Title officers; they people who put Schedule B part 2 together. (If I lost you; stop reading and go back to youtube)  These relationships have been built by passing information back and forth and helping each other out.

We are a part of the land stewardship cycle.  We need to embrace the idea that our role is to be a helluva lot more that guys who measure stuff.  So why not show easements on a Record of Survey?  And why is put a note like "survey performed without benefit of a title report"  isn't that like saying "I need somebody else to do the research"?  Some counties have a recorder's index that is easy to use.  Some don't.  So the research may or may not be easy to do.  So why not get what you can and say "This record of survey and the information shown or referenced hereon is based upon research performed by me and available as of the date of this survey; there is no warranty of a complete examination of title expressed or implied."  Isn't what your really saying when you say you did the survey without a title report.  And besides when was the last time you saw a complete title report.

   anyway my humble opinion

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To My Father....

Anyone who truly practices the profession of Land Surveying will records hundreds of surveys in courthouses all over the state.  Especially in your home county.  The progression of ones career can be followed when comparing the earliest of surveys to the latest.  As land surveyors we have the privilidge of leaving our footsteps in the public record for future generations of land surveyors to follow.  However that doesn't always tell the whole story does it.

My career started when my father James E. Muth RLS #13014; needed some cheap labor.  He has and does continue to mentor me everyday.  I have often felt that every young land surveyor should have the benefit of this type of mentorship.  It is hard to work for family and at time can strain the conventional relationship.  As a kid I had to learn to grow up fast and take the hazing that every survey crew had.  It was dificult but I learned early that it wasn't personal.  Dad was hard on me because he expected more from me.  He had the highest hopes and expectations for me and showed his disappointment through verbal incentives.  Anyone whom ever spent time with working with him knows exactly what I am talking about.  He motivated me to go to college and expand my knowledge because he knew I would have to learn more than he was able to teach.  He pushed me to always keep moving forward and never linger on looking back.

My father did not know what to expect when I struck out for fame and fortune on my own but he knew that he had equipped me with the tools I needed.  When I joined a fraternity at NMSU he was not happy.  He had visions of me becoming a cast member of "Animal House".  However when he learned that FarmHouse had an academic requirement and expected a high moral character he eventually warmed up to it.  FarmHouse has an Object. A codex that we recited before every meeting.  The Object states "The object of our fraternity is to promote good fellowship, to encourage studiousness, and to inspire its members in seeking the best in their chosen lines of study as well as in life. Progress shall mark our every step; the spirit of congeniality shall reign at all times; and every member shall be honest with himself as with his brothers. Men elected to our membership are considered to be of good moral character, to be high in scholarship, to have the capacity for meeting and making friends, and to give promise of service to their fellowmen and to the world. To be and become such may at times require a sacrifice of time, pleasures and comforts."

I have applied this "object" to my career and my life because it fits.  It speaks to the reality that as land surveyors we have a duty to our fellow men to do the best we can in every situation regardless of financial constraints and "grey areas".  My father did not know it but he was the first FarmHouse man I had ever met.  I have no idea what the future will have in store me or my career from today forward. However I know that without the mentor ship of my father I would have never been able to walk the path I have walked thus far.    

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Getting Involved

I was told early on in my career that the Land Surveyor was generally speaking held in high regard within the community.  This was probably true in a time when most of the country was illiterate.  I have noticed that the average land surveyor want to live in amenity.  They don't want to be noticed unless somebody is giving them money.  Unfortunately this is a terrible business model. 

I was in a fraternity while at NMSU.  The fraternity was not you typical "Animal House" environment.  We had to maintain a minimum GPA, and had to participate in philanthropy.  This experience was excellent although at the time I didn't know why.

When I moved back to Springerville, I began working to build a business.  In this area word of mouth is THE primary source of advertisement.  I also began to see a need for involvement.  Primarily my involvement was in interests that my daughters were/are tied to.  Little League Sports; dance; cheer; School etc.  As I began to get involved I realized that people were starting to notice I had moved home and the phone started to ring.  Then the Community leadership started seeking me out for advise on land issues.  Long story short; being involved in your community is the best way to advertise and get recognized as a professional and businessman.  Sitting in the office and wondering why the phone isn't ringing is not going to do it.  Placing adds in the newspaper or phone book with everyone else won't separate you from the pack.  Community involvement does.  Getting out there and using the deductive reasoning skilled gained from our experiences and applying them in the community outside of surveying gets you noticed.  Being a grouchy hermit does not.

My 2 cents anyway.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Land Surveyor

As a matter of practice I have prepared legal descriptions for clients so they could use that legal to execute a deed of some sort.  Normally they would go to the title company and they would prepare a courtesy deed for a fee.  They would not guarantee title unless a policy was sold.  Then up here at least they stopped doing courtesy deeds.

So the natural progression was for our clients to begin to ask me.  At first I thought it was way out of my expertise to do so.  However I am beginning to see that I might be mistaken. Before anyone freaks out try to follow me.

This is how I operate; During the course of a survey; I do as much deed and survey research I can find.  I do the field work.  I draft the plat.  I record the plat.  If my client asks for a deed to be prepared why can't/shouldn't I do it?  I have done the research, I have prepared the documents the deed relies on, what's the issue?  Liability?  Where is it?

 The fact of the matter is that in the past it WAS the land surveyor that prepared deeds for people.  Land Surveyors are the only people uniquely qualified to do so.  If our profession is to gain prominence we have to get beyond measurements.  The key to our profession is the land.  Planning, Tenure, Stewardship, and Ownership.  Land Surveyors have all of the tools to be a one stop shop to address all of the a fore mentioned.  Yet most amongst us are scared to take this on. 

I live in a small town of around 4000 covering 12 square miles.  Most everyone in town will call my father or myself with questions about land.  Where is the flood plain? How many acres? Can you pull the tax records? Can I get a copy of my deed? can I get a survey? Can you go over my title policy with me?  My point is they all come to us.  Most of the time this type of stuff is at no charge.  But we do a lot of trading up here so a favor can go a long way.  The big picture here is that when it comes to land issues in our area they all look to their local land surveyor.  this is where our profession prospers. Only those who fixate on measurements and gizmos get wrapped up in the way technology is dissolving our chores.

So in closing I don't and will not advocate practicing law.  However preparing deeds is a task uniquely tied to land surveying and as a matter of practice most attorney's lack the expertise to understand deed preparation.  Therefore I don't think it is beyond our purview to do so.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Concept of Minimum Control

Think back to high school geometry.  Two pints define a line, three points or elements define an arc.  This is basically the concept of Minim Control.  I have discussed in previous posts about my frustration with my bretheren surveyor whom believe that every survey starts at the section corner.  My hat is off to Brian Dalager and his efforts to bring the surveying profession GDACS.  However I am sure that Mr. Dalager is sharing a similar feeling as Alfred Noble.  How could something so powerful be so destructive?  Well like any tool; if used improperly it can be dangerous.

The concept of minimum control is simple.  If you are attempting to replace a lost property corner you calculate your way in from THE CLOSEST acceptable evidence that controls the calculated position.  Think about lot surveys.  If your missing a lot corner you don't replace it be surveying your way in from the sections corner that controls the subdivision (or at least you didn't until GDACS made it possible).  It was normal procedure to up and down the street adjacent to the lot and look for monumentation.  Or in many cases the best available evidence of the lot corner's location.

The dirty little secret is you can't locate and monument a boundary without seeing it.  GIS based calculations are great tools for establishing search areas.  THEY ARE NOT boundary determinations.  Calculating search areas be using GIS and GDACS is a great place to start.  However I am seeing more and more the these are being used as the solution.  Evidence on the ground will rule the day.  Calculations to the Nth decimal place will only prove you are EXACTLY wrong.   

Monday, March 17, 2014

Well I guess....

its time for me to consider whether or not there is any point to striving to make the land surveying profession any better.  Apparently I was under the mistaken belief that the purpose of a professional organization was to promote the betterment and development of the profession.  I guess what we are really supposed to do; is have meetings and discuss stuff so we can feel better about ourselves without actually doing anything.  Silly me.....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Philosophical Dilemma

There has been a lot of back and forth about revising the minimum standards.  There has been a great deal of effort made to revise the ABSMS by a group of surveyors from all over the state.  Their efforts are to be applauded.  The current standards leave much to be desired and were an attempt to fix a problem they weren't equipped to fix.

I have begun to think that maybe minimum standards for our practice is the wrong approach.  Maybe we should think about a "Manual of Surveying Instructions for the Private Land within the State of Arizona".  Much like the template of the BLM Manual.  I envision it to be structured like this:

Chapter 1 - Authorities
                     State Board of Technical Registration Rules and Statutes
Chapter 2 - County Subdivisions
                       County Subdivision Statutes
 Chapter 3 - City Subdivisions
                       City Subdivision Statutes 
Chapter 4 - Dependent Resurveys & Independent Resurveys
                        Public Land Survey System
                        Tracts, Mineral Claims, Special Surveys
Chapter 5 -  Platting
                         General requirements for platting
                          County Recorder Requirements
Chapter 6 - Field Notes / Legal Descriptions
                          General Construction of legal descriptions
Chapter 7 - Easements and Right of Ways
Chapter 8 - Control Surveying
Chapter 9 - Topographic mapping
Chapter 10 - Definitions
Chapter 11 - Index of Case Law.

Wouldn't a manual serve our purpose to educated better than a "minimum standard"?