Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Computer software that is used daily at the Macon County Emergency Management Department and often utilized by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office has found a new use in the county’s tax office, prompting the county to approve upgrading the system to prepare for the next property reassessment process.
In 2010, Macon County’s 911 department funded a flight over the county to map properties using aerial imaging.
“The computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) in the 911 center automatically interfaces with the imaging software to access the images associated with an address or telephone number that contacts 911,” said Macon County Emergency Service Director Warren Cabe. “The telecommunicator can then view different images of the area responders are being dispatched to assisting with directions and building accessibility. 911 paid for the original mapping project and software interface in 2010 and is still using them today. The NC 911 Board began providing ortho [aerial to scale] images for all counties now and as such 911 is not able to update the oblique [3-D] images with 911 designated funds anymore.”
While emergency agencies primarily use the software, Pictometry oblique imagery is becoming more prevalent in tax offices across the state. With no additional 911 funds to pay for another aerial imaging flight, Richard Lightner Tax Assessor for Macon County, requested the county to approve funding for the project.
“The cost is for two flights that cover a total of six years,” said Lightner. “The first flight is for $97,571 and the second flight is for $97,661. The oblique images can be used with the same software the county purchased in 2009-2010 for the 911 dispatch project. This enables the county to use the new maps for not only taxation but also daily through the emergency services department.”
The software and the new images are important to Macon County according to Lightner because it allows the county to have four elevations of property improvements instead of one view looking straight down. This newer method then allows for a three dimensional image that is scalable and had vivid details. The tax office will be able to double check the characteristics of the improvements and also measure the same improvements as compared to new tax records. The emergency services can use the same product for better response to developing situations that will involve assistance at any given property.
Lightner said that the greatest benefit of the software is actually the amount of money it will save the the county in the long run.
“The greatest benefit is the savings of man hours driving to locations and recertifying various attributes of a property,” said Lightner. “This changes the workflow of the appraisers and allows for greater productivity. At the same time, other departments’ benefits from this project and can have tools to improve their services to the taxpayers.”
Without the software, to meet the new mandates by the state, the county would have to hire additional personnel. The software takes the place of that need and covers the cost of six years of needs.
“If we do not have the flights than we would be required to hire two additional appraisers to meet the standards established by the International Association of Assessing Officers and the state of North Carolina Local Government Division of the Department of Revenue,” said Lightner. “The cost associated with these new positions including benefits and salary would be $110,000 per year, not including training and long term legacy cost. That compares to $330,000 plus cost for the three-year project which would cost only $97,571. This valuation of new appraisers would deliver no additional benefit to the other county departments nor would any other services be enhanced.”