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County commissions aerial pictures for departments

McDuffie County Commissioners made several department heads very happy recently. The aerial pictures of the county that are nearly a decade old will be replaced by new photography in the coming weeks.

The Tax Assessors Office, Planning and Zoning, 911 and even the Information Technology Department use the pictures of the ground taken from an airplane to conduct business in their respective departments.

Chief Appraiser Katherine Perry brought the request for the updated photography to the commission two years ago, but a tight budget forced the board to delay it. The updated pictures will be a tremendous help, according to county IT Director Kelly Evans.

"It's the difference between an old home movie and a DVD," Mrs. Evans said. "Technology has really improved. The old stuff is black and white. It was flown from a very high altitude, so it's not real clear. ... It was the cutting edge technology when we purchased it."

To cut down on the more than $75,000 cost, McDuffie is taking part in a multi-county flight that includes several surrounding areas. The new images will be color and much higher resolution than the current pictures.

Mrs. Evans said they will not include topography data, but will have buildings outlined, property lines visible, along with roads, lakes and streams. Also, inside the city limits of Thomson and Dearing, the resolution will be more detailed.

Planning and Zoning Director Fred Guerrant regularly uses the photography and is glad to see the new pictures on the way.

"I use aerials on a daily basis and almost with probably 75 percent of my customers," he said. "I will pull up their property to measure property lines, right of ways. I measure how close houses are to property lines."

But those aren't the only ways the new pictures would help improve the business of county government.

Mrs. Evans said when people call 911, dispatchers can see a map of the call location. The new data will show them updated structures and can show the best route for emergency personnel to get to the scene.

Along those lines, the new photography will help with waste management routes. Mrs. Evans said the information will also be shared with the Board of Education for bus routing and with the hospital for Emergency Medical Services.

When it comes time to complete the tax digest this year, Ms. Perry told commissioners she will be glad to have updated images showing newer buildings on properties.

The new images could also help economic development, Mrs. Evans said. New mapping could show potential industrial sites to companies looking to move into the county. It will also help with surveying prior to laying water and sewer lines.

"I am pleased that we're getting them. Although, admittedly they are costly, they are critical to our use," Mr. Guerrant said.

Once completed, the digital images will be available to view on the web at Mrs. Evans said real estate agents, commercial developers, appraisers and utility companies can all view it from there. The entire block of data will also be for sale to help recoup some of the cost.

Web posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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