Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Aerial photos in high demand

Aerial photos of Berkeley County are in high demand. The photos taken during the 2007 Berkeley County Color Digital Orthophotography Project, which was completed in March of this year, have been requested by neighboring counties, commercial businesses, as well as by members of the community.

According to Geographical Information Systems coordinator for the Berkeley County Planning Commission Matthew Mullenax, Washington County, Md., has requested a copy of the images. Their request for the images is for possible emergency situations that cross state boundaries, images already being used by Berkeley County's Central Dispatch office.

According to Mullenax the county's Central Dispatch has completed an update of its system by using the images. The update was to make address locations more accurate. Central Dispatch is to be reimbursed by the state for updating its system. He also said the water district has used the images for field crews, while the sewer district has used them to map out sewer lines.

Allegheny Power has also requested copies of the images, as have developers and contractors. The Planning Commission can charge those requesting images for commercial reasons more than those requesting for noncommercial reasons.

"There is a distinction between commercial and everyone else," Mullenax said.

Mullenax discussed fees for images with the County Commission at its meeting last week, weighing not charging nonprofits and academia, such as students working on projects.

Commissioners ultimately settled on charging them the same fee as noncommercial users would pay.

Commissioners Steve Teufel, Ron Collins and Bill Stubblefield also warned Mullenax about organizations that approach the Planning Commission for images and are trying to pose as nonprofits or noncommercial companies in order to receive images at prices regulated by the Freedom of Information Act.

The FOIA, which was updated in the 1980s to include digital information, only allows those requesting information to be charged for the cost of reproduction, unless the use is for profit reasons. A single-colored copy of an image would cost a person or group just $1, or $10 to have an image burned onto a CD.

"It's the same as someone would pay at OfficeMax or anywhere else," Mullenax said.

Funding for the project was shared equally between the Board of Education, the county's engineering department, the Planning Commission, Central Dispatch, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Assessor's Office, and the water and sewer districts.



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