Pay No Attention To Those Men Photographing Your House

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (March 13, 2008)—The St. Mary's County government is planning a several month-long effort to verify the address of every building in the county. The project will involve a team of contractors visiting every known address. Once at the address, the team will photograph the property using a GPS-enabled camera. The photograph will record the exact latitude and longitude of the property.

County officials say the data and photographs will be incorporated into the county's Geographic Information System (GIS).

"The County’s GIS data is critical to many functions of county government including 911 dispatching, land use, development, and planning," according to a prepared statement released by the government.

Jeff Edgin, GIS Manager for the county, says the effort is important because their database contains many addresses which do not have exact coordinates for the property. Edgin cited family farms that have been subdivided and now contain several homes, and in-law apartments as two examples. According to Edgin, the GIS database would only contain the coordinates for the original structure at the address. This could make it difficult for police or emergency personnel to locate the proper residence in response to a crisis.

According to Edgin, four other Maryland counties have undergone the same address verification process. Edgin said their success was key a factor in the decision for St. Mary's County to apply for funds.

Once the project has been completed, Edgin noted that people calling 911 using a cell phone will be easier to locate. The enhanced system will identify the street address closest to the caller. The current generation of cell phones all provide the ability to deliver GPS coordinates to the 911 response center.

The county is also in the process of installing GIS client terminals in Sheriff's Office vehicles and some emergency vehicles. The terminals will provide interactive mapping information about the location of the emergency call as well as the current location of the responding vehicles.

The project is being funded by the Maryland Emergency Systems Numbers Board in Pikesville. The Board receives funding from the monthly 911 tax that appears on your phone bill.

According to the David Zylak, Director of Public Safety, $603,870 was awarded to the county to pay for the effort. Zylak says the project is expected to cost less than the amount funded.

The address verification effort will begin this month in the southern end of the county. The entire project is expected to conclude within 11 months.

The work will be performed by contractors from Geographic Technologies Group (GTG). GTG describes themselves as a full-service, local government GIS consulting company.

County officials say that residents do not need to be home. The contractors will not be knocking on doors.

However, the government is encouraging citizens to ask to see proper identification. GTG contractors will be issued county photo identification badges.

The Sheriff’s Office and 911 dispatchers have been briefed on the project in order to reduce the probability of problems as contractors venture onto private property in the coming months.

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