Quorum court approves aerial photography

Monday, December 19, 2011

BERRYVILLE -- An ordinance paving the way for procurement of aerial photography services was approved by county quorum court members Friday -- but only after a lengthy debate.

The ordinance, approved on all three readings due to a time constraint, was questioned because it waived competitive bidding although the wording called for compliance with Arkansas law that requires three companies be considered.

Also called into question was a privacy issue raised by local citizen advocate, Lisa Price-Backs, who claimed Pictometry International, the firm likely to get the contract, is a big outfit with government contacts, including involvement in drone spyware.

"What are you getting involved in?" she asked.

The aerial photography, said JP Dan Mumaugh, will be used to find new construction for tax collection purposes.

County Assessor Jo Ann Harris said the plan is to pool resources to pay the $43,000 initial cost. The city of Green Forest has pledged $2,400 for its part, Berryville and Eureka Springs $6,800 each, and Carroll Electric is putting up $5,000 for its portion.

Harris said neighboring counties have used the services of Pictometry and they all can share the information in emergency situations. In addition, she said Carroll Electric and the cities want Pictometry -- and it is the only firm that is federally certified.

Jason Morris, with the Carroll County Office of Emergency Management, said Pictometry offers better resolution than its competitors, and a better enhanced view, plus its photography can benefit OEM, fire departments and law enforcement.

"It's a good program," admitted JP Ron Flake, "but is it the only one?"

Other JPs voiced concern, suggesting the ordinance spell out why they were waiving competitive bidding, or adding language that calls for a federal certification requirement.

After checking with the county's legal counsel and discovering the ordinance does reference an Arkansas law that says three companies must be considered, the JPs passed the ordinance at the urging of Harris, who indicated time was of the essence to schedule an upcoming flight session.

Another ordinance that met with opposition was one introduced at the last meeting authorizing fire departments to seek reimbursement for their services.

JP Lamont Richie objected, saying state law already allows fire departments to seek reimbursement and he didn't understand why they needed an ordinance to "restate" state law.

Flake offered his opinion, saying he is all for fire departments to collect money but he objected to them going after insured non-members only.

"I agree with Lamont," he said. "I think state law gives us all we need to pursue it."

JP Jack Deaton, a fire chief, said the main purpose was to recoup expenses incurred when responding to traffic accidents, many involving people who don't live here. "There's no collection, unless it's a commercial rig," he said.

"But this ordinance pertains to fires," responded Richie.

Morris said it also covers safety and rescue responses and hazardous material and environmental incidents.

Deaton suggested he and Morris redraft the ordinance before bringing it to the table again.

Instead the JPs voted to have County Judge Sam Barr appoint a sub-committee to look into the matter. Deaton was appointed to the committee along with Richie and JP John Howerton.

Several ordinances passed without much fanfare, including one that distributes Arkansas Game and Fish Commission funds to the three public schools and the county's 4-H program. The $7,535 is to be distributed equally between the four to be used for educational programs that meet conservation education criteria. The money is distributed annually.

Several appropriation ordinances were approved that transfer funds from one line to another within the Sheriff's Department budget to cover overtime and comp time, and an increase in inmate meal costs. When questioned, Sheriff Bob Grudek said sickness, vacation time, training time and work on the ongoing homicide investigation led to the overtime. As for meal costs, he said the price of food had gone up and prisoner meals went from 62 cents each to 80 cents each.

During the JP comment portion of the meeting, it was mentioned that the county road department has new equipment, some jail tax money should be moved to pay for road department equipment and materials, and the county should have a blueprint, scheme or strategy for road repair and the recent equipment auction netted the county $52,113.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: