Montcalm County to get bird’s eye view of landscape


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:14 am on Tuesday, November 19, 2013

STANTON — If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Montcalm County officials are about to receive a set of picture encyclopedias.

On Nov. 12, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners approved writing a letter of intent to contract with Pictometry for a compilation of aerial photographs of county parcels.

The cost will be about $106,000 for Montcalm County, thanks to a group project with other counties. Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties have already confirmed participation, according to Kent County Equalization Director Matt Woolford, who also works for the Montcalm County Equalization Department. The cost includes imagery capture, desktop software, onsite training and technical support.

Woolford presented commissioners with information about Pictometry, an aerial imaging company. Last year, Pictometry flew over 1,200 counties across the United States and captured 210 million images across 1 million square miles. The company has 80 pilots and 73 aircraft in its fleet.

“I see Pictometry as a key infrastructure,” Woolford said. “The information you can gain from an aerial photograph is pretty valuable. This tool is an invaluable tool to gain perspective.”

Woolford said currently equalization field workers have to go out and gather land information firsthand. This program won’t eliminate that, but will help repurpose field workers so they can do more.

“Things like reappraisals for your local assessors, things like inspections, things like reviewing drains through your drain department, things like looking at traffic patterns — all of that evidence you can gather from a good, solid aerial view,” Woolford said.

The aerial photography shoot is slated to take place next April, a time of year when the leaves aren’t obstructing the view. The photos will include 9 inch resolution and 3 inch resolution versions.

“You really need things at the 9 and 3 inch level,” Woolford said. “When you get to the 3 inch level, you really have the ability to measure a building.

“It comes down to a very affordable cost, in my opinion, for what will be a tremendous community asset,” he added.

Commissioners agreed, as did Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer.

“I think it’s well worth our money,” Hyzer said. “If we can have them (field workers) out in the field half the time they are now, from a funding perspective it makes sense.”

Commissioner Ron Baker of Howard City said he thinks the aerial photography results will inspire local municipalities to get on board with the project.

“The local units have been aware of this situation for a long time,” he said. “I think as the years go by, they see more and more value. I hear a lot more favorable comments and I think they’re much more on board.”

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