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County readies for aerial mapping

St. Francois County is planning another Pictometry aerial mapping project for next year and has already begun entering into partnerships with the County Assessor Dan Ward’s Office, 911 Communications Center, and the Road and Bridge Department, as well as several municipalities who will be taking part in covering the cost of the project.

The last time the county took part in aerial mapping was in 2016. At that time, the total cost of the project was about $73,000, with payments spread over a three-year period. According to Ward, the cost for aerial mapping next year will be nearly the same amount.

Pictometry is a patented aerial image capture process that produces imagery showing the fronts and sides of buildings and locations on the ground. Images are captured by low-flying airplanes, depicting up to 12 oblique perspectives shot from a 40-degree angle, as well as an overhead view of every location flown.

The perspectives are then stitched together to create composite aerial maps that seamlessly span many miles of terrain. The imagery is used by federal, state and local governments for emergency response/911, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), planning and development and assessment.

“The original contract was designed for two flyovers,” he said. “Under that contract you have the option of doing that second flyover or not doing it. The thing about it is that you’re wanting to gather as much data as you can because of all the new construction that goes on — especially in this county with the way it’s growing. I spoke with the city of Farmington the other day and they use it so much because it allows them to see things within the city limits that they weren’t able to see before.”

Aerial mapping was first brought to the county by the 911 Communications Center more than a decade ago.

“It originally began with a flyover back in 2005 before I took office,” Ward said. “Then 911 got a federal grant which paid for all of it. I think they got one more grant and then ran out of money. I said, ‘We really need to do this, so if we can get some cost sharing to help me pay for it, I’d love to do it.’ Everybody seemed to want to get on board. We originally went in with 911, Road and Bridge, Farmington and Park Hills. This year we’ve added on Desloge and Bonne Terre.”

Ward noted that along with the county, emergency services and municipalities are helped by the aerial images they receive access to by their participation in the project.

“When they look at that and they see a new building, they want to find out where it’s at, so they can give it a 911 address,” he said. “That’s their priority, of course — the public safety on that end of it. They want to make sure they’ve got everybody located and have a 911 address for them.

“The municipalities, of course, use it in their planning. Farmington’s planning and zoning use that a lot of times for their street departments. The city of Farmington said it really does wonders for them. I’m sure the other communities can do the same stuff, just on a smaller scale. That’s what I’d like to see our Road and Bridge crew start to use to keep up with their maintenance and repairs, so they can go back and historically find something.

“There’s just so many things they can use it for to make it a lot easier and more efficient.”

Asked if Pictometry suggested the county enter a three-year cycle on performing the aerial photography, Ward said no.

“They really wanted us to go with a two-year cycle, but I went with the three-year at this time. What they do down the road will be up to those who are involved years from now. We’ve found that with the growth we’re having, every three years seems to be appropriate — or our needs with the growth that we’re having.”

Ward continued, “This year we found out when they take these pictures, the pixels are different. The cities will have a more defined picture than those in rural areas where we don’t have a lot of buildings. Those cost a little bit more because of that. So, this year our mapper discovered we needed some additional sectors picked up that we didn’t have.

“We thought we were good with what we had, but with the growth going on in so many areas like Park Hills and Farmington, we need the extra sectors picked up with a finer, higher, resolution. So, we are going to be spending a little additional money for that, but our office will assume the cost for that because we’ll use them more than anybody else. It’s really worked well for our office.”

“I spoke with the city of Farmington the other day and they use it so much because it allows them to see things within the city limits that they weren’t able to see before.” — Dan Ward, county assessor

Assessor Dan Ward speaks with the St. Francois County Commission about an upcoming Pictometry aerial mapping project planned for sometime in 2019. The cost of the project is divided up by county departments and cities who have access to the photos that are used for future planning, emergency services and assessing taxes on property.

Assessor Dan Ward speaks with the St. Francois County Commission about an upcoming Pictometry aerial mapping project planned for sometime in 2019. The cost of the project is divided up by county departments and cities who have access to the photos that are used for future planning, emergency services and assessing taxes on property.

Aerial photos enhanced by Pictometry software allows the county, along with its cities and emergency services, access to details they wouldn't be able to see by any other means.

Aerial photos enhanced by Pictometry software allows the county, along with its cities and emergency services, access to details they wouldn’t be able to see by any other means.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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