Updated aerial photos one goal for G.I.S. department

COLUMBIA CITY — The head of Whitley County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) Department is constantly trying to stay one step ahead of advancing technology in order to make his office a vital tool for the entire county.GIS Coordinator Dan Weigold briefed the Whitley County Board of Commissioners last week about the variety of roles his department plays throughout the county.“The state is looking at doing another flyover,” said Weigold, who explained that GIS departments use aerial photography on a daily basis.Weigold explained that while the state does periodic flyovers to update aerial photography, the county has done similar updates in the past.The issue for Weigold and his department comes down to resolution.When the state flies over and shoots aerial photography, images are available free to counties, but for higher resolution images, a fee is charged, Weigold said.“There is a buy-up,” Weigold told the commissioners. “But, the funding is going to be the number one issue with any of this.”“We can get the free stuff, but it’s really not at the resolution we need. Of course there are buy ups.”Weigold told the panel his department receives constant requests for data from organizations and other county departments from the Sheriff’s Department to cemetery associations and historical societies.“Someone’s been looking at trying to find all the old (one-room) schools in the county,” Weigold said.According to Weigold, the last time the state did a fly over, it had only been two years since a county update, so buying the state images seemed unfeasible.“We flew in 2003 and it just didn’t seem very economical to do it (buy up) in 2005 and we flew again in 2008,” he said.“We tend to fly in about a five-year cycle and it is really quite amazing in those five years how much has changed.”With the county completely plotted by high-resolution photographs taken from the air, the uses seem limitless.“Aerials touch a lot of departments,” Weigold said.Weigold told the commissioners that state flyovers would encompass the state’s center portion from north to south and that Whitley County, considered part of the eastern portion, would be photographed next year.Whitley County GIS’s role with law enforcement has been more and more significant as technology continues to evolve.In recent years, Weigold’s department has assisted the county sheriff’s department in attempting to find missing murder victims Deb Houser and Kaylin Doggendorf.In the case of Houser, police were using aerial photography to attempt to pin-point the woman’s body.“We were putting aerial photography out as fast as we could,” he said.Weigold’s presentation was part of an on-going series of department head presentations to the commissioners with individual departments’ immediate and long-term goals.