Essex County is preparing to update three-dimensional mapping of county streets that has proven invaluable during emergencies.

The aerial photography system, called Pictometry Intelligent Images, is used at the Essex County Enhanced-911 center in Lewis. It hasn't been updated, said County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish, since the original oblique photos were shot in 2006.

"It locates callers when they call 911. It has become a problem with being inaccurate."

To make it more accurate, the County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee unanimously gave preliminary OK to a $270,000 update Monday.

A final vote is Monday, Aug. 2.

"I know it's very expensive," Jaquish said. "But it's one of the essential items we use at the 911 center."

The high-resolution images, linked to the 911 system, display the location of an emergency when a call comes in. Jaquish said municipalities will now be given access to the images, which are already also used by the County Sheriff's Department and County Real Property Tax Services.

"The primary function of Pictometry is the 911 database, to make sure we locate people properly," County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

He said the money for the Pictometry can be taken from the current $10 million county radio project bond. The county is replacing most of its public safety radio system over the next couple of years.

Palmer said the county went to bid for the original photo mapping project.

"What we're doing now is an upgrade to that existing system."

To use another vendor would require redoing the entire project, he said.

"Ultimately, you're talking about 911 calls. You've got to be right. It's too much of a risk to let that system be outdated."

Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington), who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the photo mapping is needed.

"This is a very expensive item; however, this is a part of the radio system."

Jaquish said many places have changed since the previous photos were taken.

"If we misidentify locations, if we let our mapping disintegrate, it's a risk you take with public safety."

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