Officials eye costly mapping system

News editor

Marion County is considering spending $116,000 to update aerial photography of the county, which Sheriff Rob Craft said would make law enforcement’s job easier and safer.

Pictometry International Corp. proposes taking new aerial photos of the county, including high-resolution photos of each city, as well as at the county lake and Marion Reservoir.

The high-resolution photos would be taken from four different directions, so buildings could be viewed from all sides. Floor plans of specific buildings could be overlaid on the images — assuming owners provided the floor plans to the county — and if the county spent an additional $10,000 to $12,000 on a camera, room-by-room pictures could be added.

“It would be useful to us if we were planning any kind of covert operation, such as making an arrest on a felony warrant or raiding a drug operation,” Craft said after a meeting Dec. 31.

With the pictures from all four directions, law enforcement could make plans without having to go to the place first and potentially tipping their hand. The extra planning could also help with safety.

“We would go into it with more knowledge than we would without it,” Craft said.

The cost for the aerial photography alone would be $38,922 for each of the next three years. For an additional $2,500, the county could purchase a website license to make the images available to select agencies, such as police departments and schools. An earlier round of aerial photography was paid for with a grant in 2008.

“We just spent 3½ million to house derelicts; what’s a million to protect school kids,” Commissioner Dan Holub said, referring to school shootings.

Craft said the ability to add building floor plans and room-by-room could be a big help in an active-shooter or hostage situation. Dispatchers could relay that information to officers on their way to a crisis scene, he said.

“School is the focus, but it’s not the only place it would be,” Craft said.

Holub said other agencies using the system, possibly including police and fire departments and schools, could help with the cost of it. But Commissioner Randy Dallke said that area schools are facing declining enrollment and funding, so he questioned where they would find the money for something like this.

One of Pictometry’s main sales pitches for its services is that annual updates can allow appraisers to find otherwise hidden upgrades to property, helping recover the cost via increased property tax receipts. Magill said Pictometry recommends Marion County update the photography every three years, but she thought four or five years would be OK. Dallke questioned whether the updates would find more growth or demolition in Marion County.

Pictometry had a demonstration of its products Dec. 18 at the sheriff’s office.

Representatives of the county emergency management, appraiser, emergency medical service, emergency communications, planning and zoning, health, and sheriff’s departments, the cities of Florence, Hillsboro, Burns, Lincolnville, Goessel, Marion, Durham, and Peabody, and Peabody-Burns and Centre school districts attended the demonstration.

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