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Aerial photography contract approved by Washington County

Various departments in Washington County will continue using aerial photography for planning and public safety purposes after the board OK’d a new contract last week.

The County Board approved a two-year contract with New York-based Pictometry International Corporation to provide the services that allow for angle and 3-D photography over different parts of the county.

Miyke Nelson, director of information technology, said the service provides specific measurements at each location.

Public works, public health and environment, IT, property records, the sheriff’s office and the county attorney’s office all use the photography.

The new contract is a partnership that gives Anoka, Carver and Dakota counties access to the services as well.

But photos are not available to the public in digital form, Nelson said, because of concerns about having images of that nature on the web.

However, he said individual residents may request hard copies.

“Essentially, I can go get a photo but I wouldn’t be able to go get a whole block,” Nelson said.

The contract will cost the county around $100,000 over the next two years, something the Facebook group “Washington County Watchdog” questioned.

“In the age of free Google Earth that can zoom in to see a dropped quarter on the ground, why are we paying over $100,00 for aerial photography still?” the group asked on its page.

The difference between Pictometry and Google Earth is the ability to zoom in much more and get different angles of one property, Nelson said. He added that inspections and planning can be done using the photos in the winter months without having to dig through snow.

The aerial photography plan began in the spring of 2011 with an oblique flight followed by straight down orthophotography in 2013.

With the 2014 plan, the county will acquire traditional straight down and angled photograph with 3-D imagery.

The County Board unanimously approved the plan at the Feb. 18 meeting.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.