By Tia Laynn Ivey managing editor
Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) will dip into the contingency fund for a special project opportunity costing about $40,000. The BOC unanimously approved a request for the Aerial Flyover program through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal agency that will take digital photos of Morgan County’s landscape and topography from an aerial view, along with three neighboring counties. “We are essentially piggybacking three other counties, which severely cuts the cost to us,” said County Manager Michael Lamar, who noted if the county were to seek this service individually, it could cost more than $100,000. Lamar also pointed out that the last aerial photos taken of Morgan County happened about 10 years. “I think doing this once a decade seems pretty reasonable,” said Lamar. The program will benefit both the Morgan County Planning Department and the Morgan County Tax Assessors. “It gives us good digital imagery to see what improvements have been made to county lands. You get more accurate assessment information, if you can see clearly what is on a piece of property or parcel of land,” explained Lamar.
The County Planning Department will utilize the photos to help determine stormwater issues through the county when considering development projects and the Tax Assessor’s Office will use the photos to help determine the value of properties throughout the county. “They will take aerial photographs of the county with topography imagery to show the differences in the development of the county,” explained Planning Director Chuck Jarrell. “Tax assessors use it for identifying and evaluating properties and the planning department would use it to identify stormwater issues as developments occur.” The opportunity to gain such precise digital photos of Morgan County’s landscape is so valuable to the Tax Assessor’s Office, that Chuck Anglin, chief tax appraiser for the county, pledged to forgo requesting a software update for fiscal year 2017 to help offset the cost for the county. “Even though the software update is for a different fiscal year, it’s a wash in terms of money…I can totally support that,” said Lamar. “It’s a benefit for everyone,” said Anglin. The county will be working with NOAA on the details and exact cost of participating in the program.