Aerial photos to help compile property info

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County is moving forward with an effort that will make use of aerial photographs to compile property information.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to sign an agreement with Pictometry International Corp., the company whose representative demonstrated its computer software in November at the courthouse. Through the use of the aerial photographs, the company can pinpoint information about each property such as access points, size and nearby resources.

County leaders did not know when the aerial photographs would be taken but said they need to be done in early spring or late fall when trees have no leaves.

Blair County 911 Director Mark Taylor, who was not available Tuesday for comment, urged commissioners in November to consider the purchase as a way to help emergency responders. Pictometry is being used in other counties, he said, and has proven helpful in different ways, such as by helping firefighters identify nearby water sources.

“This is giant step forward for us,” Commissioner Diane Meling said Tuesday.

The cost of the contract, which includes the computerized compilation of aerial photographs and the software to access the information, was listed on the commissioners’ meeting agenda at $111,631. Meling said that amount will be paid over two years in four installments, with initial costs covered with revenue accumulated from technology fees.

Future expenses to upgrade the software and photographs could be covered with revenue the county collects from 911 fees levied on land line and cellphones, Taylor told the commissioners in November.

The system is expected to be valuable not only to the county’s 911 Center but also to additional departments such as assessment, probation, sheriff and voter registration.

Gene Porterfield of Evaluator Services & Technology, formerly known as 21st Century Appraisals, which provides Blair County with a chief tax assessor and management services, said access to the Pictometry system could be helpful.

The assessor’s office currently records property information on cards, usually in the form of sketches and notations. If those sketches can be entered into the Pictometry system and compared electronically to the aerial photographs, then the assessment office will be able to identify what buildings are not on the county property tax records, Porterfield said.

Pictometry’s photographs are taken from low-flying airplanes, not only from directly above a site but also from 40-degree angles to generate the property details that are documented.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.