Wright County Board approves 2014 survey flyover contract

Thanks to technological advancements, the way of doing business has changed in many respects.
The home phone is going the way of the dinosaur. Computers have replaced many of the old-school forms of communication and the image quality of photos, whether from cameras or mobile devices, have become increasingly more advanced.
At the Feb. 4 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners were faced with a similar type of “will this be the last time?” sort of proposal.
County Surveyor Steve Jobe came before the board with a contract for a photographic flyover of the county for use in the surveyor’s office, as well as images for the county platbook and copies of the finished photo album for sale to contractors. Jobe said he was pleased with the competition that took place to land the project – a cooperative effort between Wright, Stearns and Sherburne counties.
“We received nine proposes for aerial photography services,” Jobe said. “The prices were all over the board, but in the end, we got an excellent price. Based on all the information we gathered, the selection team picked Aerial Services Inc. from Cedar Falls, Iowa as the preferred vendor. They have the lowest price as well as the quickest delivery time. The Wright County portion is $65,364, which is well under the estimated $75,000.”
While the board was pleased with the savings over what the anticipated cost was going to be, Commissioner Charlie Borrell questioned how long the county will have to spend that kind of money to maintain such a system when technological advancements have come so far so fast in recent years.
“I’ll go along with supporting this because we’ve gone through the entire process, but if I’m still on the board three years from now when you come back to another, it will be a much harder sell for me,” Borrell said. “I can go to Google Earth and zoom in on a piece of property to the point that I can see a swing set in the back yard of a house. I can’t see continuing to spend $65,000 to keep doing this when the technology is already there.”
While the Google Earth images are much more comprehensive in cities than in rural areas, in the next three years, continued advancements might no longer require such things as aerial photography flyovers that have been done for decades. The board unanimously approved signatures on the contract, which may be the last time it does so.
In other items on the Feb. 4 agenda, the board:
• Gave a letter of support to the Clearwater River Watershed District in its effort to secure grant funding from the state. The CRWD is one of 12 finalists for funding from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources under the Targeted Watershed Demonstration Program. It is expected that, if approved, the three grant winners will receive between $2.2-3.1 million to complete their proposed projects. There are 23 lakes within the watershed and the CRWD project would be to target fertilizer application to prevent farm fertilizer from working its way into lakes and underground water sources.
• Acknowledged the retirement of Deputy County Assessor Randy DesMarais and authorized advertising to replace his position.
• Authorized sending a letter to the owner of a 100-acre parcel of land in Southside Township that had approached the parks department to see if it was interested in purchasing the land. The parcel wasn’t part of the parks acquisition plan and, because there are gravel resources in the township, it was forwarded to the ways and means committee to see if the county would view the land as a potential gravel investment. After lengthy discussion, the recommendation was to send a letter expressing that the county has minimal interest in purchasing the land.
• Authorized Commissioner Mike Potter to attend with the National Association of Counties annual conference in Washington D.C. March 1-5 or the annual Washington Fly-In later in the month. Typically, Wright County has attended the Fly-In as opposed to the NACO conference, but Potter said the focus of the NACO conference this year will be on transportation and infrastructure issues, which is of importance to Wright County, which is trying to obtain additional funding to continue the expansion of I-94 to Monticello and potentially as far as Clearwater.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.

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