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County buys aerial photo services to aid property tax valuation

March 8th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Chris Lee

LOGAN — Cache County has purchased a program that will provide aerial images of all of the land and buildings in the county. The images will help in property assessment and possibly emergency services, said County Assessor Kathleen Howell.

The pictures will be taken by Pictometry, an aerial photography company. Pictometry will fly planes with cameras attached to photograph the entire valley, Howell said.

The planes will photograph images from various angles to capture the whole valley, said Cary Jenkins, a geographical information systems (GIS) specialist in Development Services. He said the planes will take pictures from the north, south, east, and west (called obliques) and a top-down image called an ortho. These images will show every side of all the buildings in Cache County.

The county has also purchased online tools from Pictometry to measure buildings using these images, Jenkins said.

“We overlay our property boundaries on it so we will be able to look and see which structures are there,” Howell said. “We’ll be able to measure buildings, we’ll be able to see if in fact it’s being farmed, based on what we see in the pictures.”

Howell said the images will help the assessment office gather data, but they will still measure buildings on site.

“We’ll still have to measure the buildings,” Howell said. “We won’t do it strictly from the aerial, but we’ll still probably measure because while it’s close it’s not exact.”

Howell said sometimes the county can’t get to a structure. She said in that case the images will be able to give them approximate measurements.

To measure the height of a building with the height tool, the user will click the base of a building and drag the cursor to the top of the building, Jenkins said. The app will then show an approximate height of a building. He said the app can also be used for other purposes.

“Our office will probably use it for development purposes,” Jenkins said. “Doing mockups and things, and determining entry points to property and helping the zoning administrator in that way.”

According to Jenkins the program can also be used by other offices such as the County Sheriff and the Fire Department. Jenkins said Ogden City Police Department gave an example of a law-enforcement use for the app at a users’ meeting. He said the program could be used in a hostage situation to find possible entrances into the building as well as possible sniping spots if necessary.

“Say, for instance, you have a situation at the university,” Jenkins said as he brought up an image of a campus building. “With Pictometry you are able to zoom in, and you are able to look at every side of the building.”

Jenkins said this can help police strategically place officers or deputies around the building without having anybody drive down the street to check out the location. He said this helps speed response time and helps officers or deputies find entrances into the building. He said it can also be used to help find the best sniping spots if necessary.

The program can also help law enforcement agencies map out the quickest way to an emergency, Jenkins said.

Lieutenant Chad Jensen from the Cache County Sheriff’s Office said the images would mostly be used to find access points, roads, and terrain outside of the city. He said it would be more helpful for search and rescue than for law enforcement.

“I don’t know if it would be very helpful for us in a SWAT situation,” Jensen said. “I could see us using it for search and rescue operations to look at terrain and trails and roads to get our rescuers into different places.”

Jensen said it could also be used in planning for floods, fires, and earthquakes.

Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon said the Pictometry images can be used for purposes other than measuring buildings and finding roads. “Nowadays we can spot things like noxious weed infestations,” Lemon said. Comparing new photos will help show if the county was successful in removing those weeds.

Lemon said he was initially concerned about the price, but Pictometry has a variety of uses and will be widely available to all the county offices. “I think building inspection will use it, zoning will use it, I can’t imagine that even emergency services won’t use it,” he said.

The program’s cost is based on the number of property parcels counted and the resolution you want the pictures in, Howell said. “I believe the cost for Cache County was around $125,000 per year.” She said Cache County has about 45,000 parcels of property.


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