NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Just about everyone is familiar with Google Earth. The mapping technique pinpoints places with aerial photographs.
Now the Nacogdoches County Central Appraisal District and several other East Texas counties are utilizing something similar, but it's much more sophisticated. The amazing software is helpful for both updating the tax rolls and assisting emergency personnel.
The Old University Building was easily spotted on Washington Square in Nacogdoches when John Yarbrough, a mapping specialist at the Nacogdoches County Central Appraisal District, demonstrated the new system.
"This is the TJR campus. And you can zoom in," Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough's bird's eye view of all of Nacogdoches county comes without leaving his central appraisal office.
"They flew the city at 4 inches per pixel and the county at 9 inches per pixel so that gives us a lot of detail," Yarbrough said.
Pictometry is the company providing more than aerial photographs. The multiple-angle views combined with sophisticated change finder software alerts the tax man about what's different.
Gary Woods, the chief appraiser for Nacogdoches County, said the system "will identify a structure that was here five years ago but is no longer here than we know it needs to be removed from the tax roll."
It also reports new construction. To illustrate this, Yarbrough used the system to focus on another part of Nacogdoches.
"The county expo," Yarbrough said. "We've added the eastern or front part of that building."
The new software also provides analytical information.
"We can measure houses and structures that are remotely located," Yarbrough said.
It comes in handy when dealing with secretive property owners.
"People don't tell us when they built a new house, and it needs to be added to the tax roll," Yarbrough said.
However, what really sparked the search for updated imagery was a large wildfire two years ago.
"We had a difficult time quickly finding owners of property, whether they were owners of structures threatened by fire or timberland threatened by fire," Woods said.
In about two months, completed software will instantly link a location with an owner. In addition, there's no limit to how the imagery can help multiple emergency services.
"It can tell a uniformed officer if there are two doors at the back of the house or just one exit at the back of the house," Woods said, "There are a lot of varied uses."
The company Website says it best. Pictometry has taken the elusiveness out of "getting 'the big picture.'"
Access to images have already been shared with the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office during a stakeout case. The information is also shared with 911 mapping services.