County contracts for aerial photos

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — Surry County will spend more than $150,000 on aerial photography throughout the course of the next six years.

On Oct. 17 the Surry County Board of Commissioners approved a plan presented by Tax Administrator Michael Hartgrove to enlist a company to take pictures at 45-degree angles of every property in the county.

Hartgrove said the dollars needed for the contract with Pictometry International were already included in the 2016-17 fiscal year’s budget. The photography can be used by the tax department and others, and will be accessible to the public.

Hartgrove told the board the company will take photos at least twice throughout the duration of the six-year contract. Additional photos could be taken in the event of a natural disaster or at the county’s request. The photography differs from that which might be found on Google Maps in that it is oblique photography, capturing a better view by use of angled shots.

The county will pay Pictometry nearly $25,000 annual in years one through three of the contract and the rest spread out over the final three years of the pact.

Hartgrove explained when making property value assessments his staff walks around buildings to better make the assessment. However, that task can be tough since tax department officials will not go past no trespassing signs, will not walk around a home if the owner is not home and cannot access some gated communities in the county.

While the imagery at a 90-degree angle available through Google Maps can give a good overview of a property, it is impossible to discern such attributes as building height, which is important in assigning a property valuation.

“We are so two-dimensional right now,” explained Hartgrove. “We are trying to transition to 3-D photography.”

Hartgrove told the board the imagery can be used by other departments. For instance, the sheriff’s office could view a property before serving a warrant. It would allow officers to identify certain dangers associated with a property.

Additionally, in case of a natural disaster, a flight will take place immediately. Hartgrove said that element could be important for homeowners to prove the extent of any damages when making insurance claims.

“Could it save man-hours in your department?” asked Commissioner Van Tucker.

Hartgrove said over time the availability of the images could result in cost-cutting. Rather than paying multiple people to drive throughout the county to assess properties, one person might be able to sit behind a computer and view properties.

“I could really see this benefiting the county,” said Commissioner Larry Phillips, honing in on the post-natural disaster aspect of the contract.

However, Board Chairman Buck Golding said he does have one concern.

“I guess I probably need to move my still,” joked Golding.

The measure was passed unanimously.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.