Aerial mapping of county approved

On March 27, 2012, several county department heads asked the county board to authorize an expenditure of $187,000 for high-resolution aerial photographs of 775 square miles of county land.
The county paid for a set of images back in 2009, and GIS Analyst Kyle Oberg recommended that the county start replacing these images every three years.  The proposed coverage area includes all private lands, Lake Superior shoreline within Cook County, the county road network, and other land considered of special interest to the county, such as gravel pits.  The work would be done before the leaves are out.
The images, taken from a plane by people who specialize in this type of work, provide much more detail than satellite images already available on the Internet.  The company that provided images three years ago is phasing out old equipment and replacing it with equipment that shows much finer detail.  The difference in clarity, according to Assessor Mary Black, is “like night and day.” 
The department heads gave examples of how this type of imagery is useful in their work.  Assessor Black said it helps her staff be more equitable in assessing properties.  Planning & Zoning Director Nelson said they can sometimes avoid having to go out into the field to answer questions for people asking about specific properties.  Sheriff Mark Falk said this imagery helps his staff prepare for safer high-risk entries and for search and rescue missions.  Highway Department Engineer David Betts said the imagery helps his crew know where to go when a caller requests service on a certain portion of a road.
The public would be able to access the imagery on the county’s website.  Sam Parker, a property assessor, said, “This is probably as much benefit to the private sector as the public sector.”
Funding proposed by staff would take $10,000-$50,000 from eight different county funds. The board approved the expenditure (with Commissioner Fritz Sobanja voting no) with a condition that other funding sources be explored as well.  “I just don’t think the cost/benefit ratio has been fully analyzed,” Sobanja said.