The city's GIS computer mapping program – which electronically stores and uses geographical information – has incorporated new aerial photos to allow researchers a clearer and much more distinct computer view of Jacksonville.
The quality difference between older and new Geographical Information System photos boils down to simple math: The previous photo lookup range was one meter, or 39.37 inches. The new photo range is one foot, which equals 12 inches.
“One-meter clarity is kind of blurry when you zoom in – kind of like looking at a 'Bing' or 'Google' map and not being able to see around that much,” explained Jordan Yutzy, GIS Coordinator. “The new photo's one-foot clarity can specifically view details of a house or piece of property and the addresses attached to it.”
The newly-acquired aerial photos include 50 miles of city, plus all of Jacksonville's extraterritorial jurisdiction, plus all the area around Lake Jacksonville.
The level of improved clarity helps researchers stay informed on many different levels, the GIS coordinator said.
The old map with the different clarity range can even be compared to the new map to demonstrate the differences between the previous photos from 2009 and the new photos taken roughly a year or so ago.
Options to fixing the clarity problem included paying between $12,000 and $14,000 for brand new city aerial photos.
But there was a more affordable option in the eyes of city officials – a pre-existing, more recent aerial photo that would cost only $2,000, explained Mo Raissi, Jacksonville's city manager.
Raissi said he believes the quality of photo to be the same, but at a much cheaper price.
“We've been looking for the right photos for the past year and a half,” Yutzy said.
“It's basically been a cost issue. Usually the state takes its own photos every two to three years but it's at one-meter clarity, so you can't zoom in with them the way we want to.”
The new photos get in close. Distinct details on cars, parking lots or even back yards can be spotted, officials said.
Yutzy said the system helps code enforcement with important tasks such as construction and monitoring water use.
The Jacksonville's city website explains that the city is in the process of digitizing all its maps and other information – including waterlines, street, properties and historical markers.
The benefits of this include the ability to assign 911 addresses in city limits and create informational maps for all the city's departments.
It also helps assign addresses and change addresses within city limits, according to the website.
Ultimately, the efforts of GIS are designed to assist simple location and inventory efforts as well as greatly improve decision making. All of which leads to MUCH more accurate public information, Jacksonville officials said.
In about another two years, as the topography changes, the city will probably start looking for an even newer photo.
“It's really cheaper to do it this way,” Yutzy said.