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Editorial: Aerial photo project holds promise for taxpayers

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Despite legitimate concerns that were raised about cost-sharing issues, a proposal for an aerial photo project that would be used by city and county governments could benefit not only them and their employees but taxpayers as well.

Representatives of both governments have agreed on a $227,085 contract with Pictometry International Corp. of Rochester, N.Y., to provide aerial photos of the county that would be used in the reassessment of properties by the county assessor’s office. Under the arrangement, county government would pay approximately 59 percent of the overall cost, with the city picking up the remaining 41 percent.

Columbus resident Mike Lovelace challenged the split, arguing that since city residents are also county residents they would be paying twice for the service. That is a concern that has been voiced a number of times in the past about other city-county cost-sharing arrangements and deserves to be considered from a comprehensive perspective rather than on an item-by-item basis.

In the meantime, the benefits of this particular undertaking are such that it needs to go forward immediately without becoming mired in a partisan debate.

The aerial photography in this instance opens the potential for being able to assess individual properties using 3-D quality photos of the areas in question to determine such things as the measurements of a building’s footprints.

The savings are realized in that more of the reassessment work can be conducted in the office rather than having to send personnel onto individual properties to make measurements in person. It not only saves money in terms of reduced travel expenses but can eliminate a great amount of the time assessors spend in the car traveling between the office and sites.

The information gleaned from the photos, which are shot with cameras facing in all four directions as well as straight down, can be shared with other agencies. For instance, the city engineer, planning department and utilities can use information gleaned from the photos on infrastructure projects.

Emergency responders, including Columbus police, can prepare contingency plans for emergencies by getting detailed insights into building descriptions, such as floor plans and exits and entries.

The imagery has become so detailed that some concerns have been raised about privacy issues, but as Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson pointed out, those concerns are mitigated by present assessment practices of workers coming onto properties to obtain the same information.

In this instance, technology serves not as a Big Brother but as a facilitator in providing easy access to needed information.

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