Aug 222014

By Tammy Gray

With more than 90,000 parcels to review and value for tax purposes, the Navajo County Assessor’s Office is turning to new technology to simplify the process.

The assessor’s office, with the approval of the board of supervisors, entered into a contract with Pictometry, a company that provides a new type of aerial photography. The special process produces three-dimensional pictures that provide accurate measurements of buildings and views from the sides and top, as opposed to top-down satellite imagery. The contract also includes a software program that identifies changes made to parcels.

Chief Deputy Assessor Darlene Fraley explained that the assessor’s office reviews properties every five years for changes, but due to limited staff and the sheer physical size of the county, it is impossible to visit every property in person. The new software will alert staff that changes have been made to parcels or buildings, and those changes can then be reviewed to determine whether they affect the value of the property.

According to Fraley, even though staff members will be able to accurately measure buildings based on the images provided by Pictometry, an appraiser will still visit the site to make sure the valuation is accurate.

“They can review changes from their desk, then send appraisers to the field. We will only go to the ones we see have changes,” she said. “This will save hours of driving time and field time.”

Because the images provide side views of buildings, including the locations of windows and doors, they may also be used to assist law enforcement and emergency personnel as needed. Fraley noted that law enforcement officers, for example, could view a property to determine where entrances and exits are located.

Not all parcels in the county will be photographed by Pictometry. Fraley explained that due to the cost and the large number of vacant properties, only locations where populations are concentrated, such as cities and towns, will be included in the project.

“We are restricted by cost, so we will only go where there will be the most benefit,” she said. “We did not include the outlying areas because of the huge number of square miles.”

Included on the list of places to be photographed are Holbrook, Winslow, Joseph City, Heber/Overgaard, Snowflake/Taylor, Show Low and Pinetop/Lakeside.

Fraley explained that information generated through Pictometry will only be available to county employees and will not be included on the website for the general public. Flood control and planning and zoning personnel will also use information generated by the project for planning and decision-making purposes.

The total cost of the project is $107,437, including approximately $87,749 for production of the pictures, and the remainder for software, maintenance and support services.