Sunday, March 4, 2018

Mountain Air Service LLC: Lewis County aerial mapping to assist multiple county offices, development

WESTON — New aerial mapping of Lewis County will assist several county offices, as well as those considering moving to or starting a business in the county. Once completed, the public will be able to access the information and maps.

The Lewis County Commission approved the recommendation of the $20,000 Mountain Air Service LLC bid this week to provide the geographic information system service. The company is a sister business of Landmark Forestry.

Horner will fly over the entire county in a plane and take 6-inch resolution photographs that will show buildings, landmarks, access roads and properties, Lewis County Assessor John Breen said.

Brian Mills, director of operations for Mountain Air Service, explained the county is looking for updated aerial mapping, which is a vertical map product or a photo looking straight down.

The Mountain Air Service fleet is located at the Morgantown Airport. The company owns four airplanes and a helicopter and manages two other aircraft. Its primary business is passenger charter.

“The process we utilize is an airplane that has an aerial mapping camera mounted looking straight at the ground. We fly a pre-determined grid, in this case a county, with the use of GPS. The camera system takes successive photos to ensure overlap,” Mills said. “You basically fly the entire county to have 100 percent coverage. At the end of the project, we might have 4,000 individual images that make up a composite of county. We take it into the office. The digital camera system is special in that it matches a geographical position with each photo. It looks like one seamless image of the entire county when completed.”

Mills will use a Piper Apache light twin-engine plane. He has been flying since 2000.

“We watch the sky for when to start. They want leaf-off positions. Mid-May is the cut-off point. We’ll start watching for a sunny day with no clouds. It takes about a month to process the pictures. It can be produced pretty quick,” he said. “We’ve worked for over a decade in county mapping. We did Harrison County for seven consecutive years. We’ve also done Pocahontas, Randolph, Wetzel, Taylor, Barbour and Upshur counties.”

He said the updated aerial mapping is becoming a mainstream product.

“Now all the counties want it and get it almost annually. County assessment photography came from 911 mapping and addressing purposes. Six-inch resolution is sufficient to tell the type of structure and takes some of the guess work out of what the assessor has to do,” Mills said.

The company has been notified, and the best time to do the aerial is when there is no snow,” Breen said.

The aerial map will assist his office with seeing new construction, structures that have been demolished and identifying properties, although not distinct boundaries, he said.

The $20,000 cost will be shared equally between the Assessor’s Office and the Office of Emergency Management/911.

Steve Moneypenny, addressing and floodplain manager, who assisted with comparing bids, said the current data is outdated and incorrect.

“We have six-year-old photography. We have new developments; Marcellus wells have practically moved mountains. There have been entire neighborhoods built in six years,” Moneypenny said. “We get GPS of all roads and know exactly where we are going. Our dispatchers also have this information for 911 services. It pulls up the aerial photography of the caller’s location.”

The oil and gas industry also impacts the need for new aerial mapping.

“We have two industrial developments that are currently shown as just fields. A large part of what is now oil field storage and offices was grassed over and now are distinct addresses. We also have travel trailer parks that were not there years ago,” he said.

County Clerk Cindy Rowan said the map also will assist her with verifying voters’ addresses.

The office of Sheriff Adam Gissy will also find the updated aerial photography beneficial, Breen said.

“They will be able to see the surrounding area, any buildings that may be on the property and (be) able to see the layout before police go to the scene. It would enable them to make a game plan,” Breen said.

Once completed, the higher resolution close-up mapping of the county will be available on the Lewis County Assessor’s website. The older maps are currently online.

“It allows businesses from outside the county, the state and even the country to look at our properties online for places to relocate or bring businesses,” Breen said.

All 55 counties have utilized aerial photography or want to do so. This type of information is usually updated every three or four years, he said.

Harrison County GIS Coordinator Mike Pizzino said the mapping is utilized by the Assessor’s Office, the County Commission, 911, county clerk’s office and Planning Commission.

“The County Commission can use it to resolve problems the public may call in with regarding properties and other issues,” Pizzino said. “They also use it to determine areas for the tax increment financing districts.”

Another example would be if someone lives on a specific street and wants to abandon an alley, officials can see what borders the property in question.

“When it comes to about anything that has to do with property, the aerial photography is used as a starting point,” he added. “The Planning Commission has used it for the rail trails and the county comprehensive plan.

“We can see current property status and so can the public. We all look at the same thing. It is more current than other online mapping services,” Pizzino added.

Original article can be found here ➤

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