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Birds-eye view maps coming to Jackson County
Commission approves aerial photo project
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Definition: Orthophotography is a type of aerial photography that provides "imagery products in support utilities, transportation, floodplain mapping, engineering design, and environmental mapping," according to Photoscience’s Web site. The digital photography would allow the county to have accurate, up-to-date information about the landscape and its potential uses, which would help when attracting businesses and developers to the county.

Impacts: GIS employee Joel Logan said the technology would be beneficial for the county in several ways. The photography will provide important information for the transportation and comprehensive plans, the design and engineering of upcoming road projects, the selection of a future reservoir location and use in the emergency response field.


JEFFERSON — The detailed topographical maps often depicted in social studies books give the reader a good sense of the lay of the land, where the mountains slope into valleys and where rivers give way to the sea.

In Jackson County’s case, the maps of the county used by officials were last updated in 2001. County Geographic Information Systems Manager Joel Logan spoke about the maps and the need to update topographical information at a recent Jackson County Commission meeting.

"If you were ever in Boy Scouts and saw the old topo maps, that’s what’s registered for everything, for our elevation, for flood plains, flood elevations, anything like that," Logan said.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve a contract between the county and Photoscience Inc., an organization of land surveyors and engineers that offers digital mapping and aerial photography services, according to its Web site.

"This is definitely the step we need to take, I think, in moving the county forward," said Commissioner Bruce Yates.

The digital photography would allow the county to have accurate, up-to-date information about the landscape and its potential uses, which would help when attracting businesses and developers to the county.

"One of the things as I understand it, this will enable us to provide a better service to the development community, people who would have to go out and provide this information themselves. We can now sell it to them to help offset some of our costs," said Commission Chairman Hunter Bicknell. "And some of the money that would go into this project, we would have to spend anyway with our road projects."

Commissioner Dwain Smith asked Logan how the information gathered would help with future capital projects. Logan said Photoscience’s services would help the GIS department and other departments in the county government, including emergency response.

"The orthophotography would leap us ahead light years of what we’re doing," Logan said. "The other thing I perceive as far as capital projects in the next two years is ... first responder photography. That’s where fire and/or policemen, before they get to the scene, they’ve got a laptop in their car and they can see all four sides of a building and would be able to measure distances."

Logan said the information would benefit several other areas as well.

"This would benefit greatly the transportation plan, which is a component of the comprehensive plan. It would benefit a lot of our IDA projects with the roads, it would cut down a lot on the design and the costs involved with that," Logan said.

"One of the great tools about having contours and photography is that it’s another arm for the IDA and anybody like the chamber of commerce to go out seeking commercial and industrial activity. It’s one more tool in our belt to give to industries and commercial businesses that want the photography. They want to know the lay of the land, and these are things we can choose to give them."

Logan also noted the topographical information would help with one of the county’s goals for 2009 — finding a location for a new reservoir.

"Having this orthophotography and especially the contours would help choose that site," he said. "It would also on the back end help reduce some engineering and planning costs."

The county’s contract with Photoscience notes the services would cost a total of $219,668, to be paid for through the county’s economic development bond program, according to supplemental agenda documents.

Now that the contract has been approved, Logan said he and his team will have a series of meetings to determine what projects need information from the digital photography first and set up the date for the plane to take the digital photos.

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