Council inks ‘aerial photos’ deal

Clarification: The Port of Friday Harbor has not made a financial commitment for aerial photos as part of the county's contract with Pictometry, Inc., according to county Communications Manager Stan Matthews.

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

San Juan County is close to signing a contract for detailed aerial photographs of the county with Pictometry International of Rochester, N.Y.

On March 12, the County Council approved a proposal by Information Services Manager Stan Matthews to negotiate a contract worth $139,951 with Pictometry for photographs and laser-generated “views” called LIDARs that are used by a variety of government and private agencies.

According to Matthews, further negotiations with Pictometry brought the price down to $122,500, payable over three years, with the option for two additional sets of photographs at the same price over six additional years. Matthews said he discussed a potential contract for aerial photography services with another provider, Access Geographic of Tempe, Ariz., but has received no competing bids for the current project.

The county’s Geographic Information System is a computer-based system of maps and data that is used by most of the county’s departments and agencies, including the assessor and departments of Community Development and Planning, Public Works, and Health and Community Services. The current budget for the GIS function in the county is about $270,000. Maps and data can be accessed at

Matthews assured the County Council that the photography and accompanying computer technology are important for county operations and that various departments and eight other non-government agencies need the photographs and other data and are willing to pay for them.

In an explanatory memorandum to the council, Matthews said the cost of photographing the county five years ago was $160,000 - and the county did not get any of the “extras,” such as oblique photographs and LIDARs, that Pictometry would provide.

One of those extras is air fare, hotel accommodations and conference registration for one person at an “advanced training user conference” — at an unspecified location. Another is “up to 200 square miles of disaster coverage imagery to be described in contract.”

Matthews presented the plan to update and improve the county’s aerial photographic portfolio to the council March 12. In a 4-2 decision, the council, with Marc Florenza and Bob Jarman voting against, gave the plan its tentative approval, subject to outside agencies committing to one-third of the contract amount and subject to county cancellation of the deal “for any reason.”

On April 3, Matthews said that various outside agencies (including the Port of Friday Harbor, the Land Bank, the Preservation Trust, OPALCO, and Roche Harbor Resort) have committed to their portions of the funding, so he is negotiating a final contract. Matthews says the contract can be signed by county Manager Bob Jean without further action or review by the council.


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