YORK – York County will soon be photographed, from the sky, as it has been for many years for assessment purposes – but this time, it will be done in a new way that will provide high-tech imagery.
Every so many years, counties pay for aerial photography, in order to keep up with new structures and changes to keep valuation up to date. York County, years ago, established a reappraisal sinking fund, in order to pay for this periodic service as well as to pay commercial appraisers. This fund grows with annual deposits so the money is available when the time comes.
This year, York County Assessor Kurt Bulgrin asked to go with a company called Eagle View which will take to the sky as usual, but they will also provide imagery so detailed that structures will be able to be measured from his office in the courthouse.
Currently, the assessor staff goes out in person and physically measures new structures when they find out about their existence. That will still happen, but this new imagery will streamline that process as well as make them immediately aware of changes (valuation additions) as they occur.
There will also be an added bonus in that the imagery will be shared with the emergency communications center and sheriff’s department to enhance their emergency responses.
The imagery will not be made available to the public, in order to protect individual privacy, which was a big concern for the commissioners when it was first discussed. That privacy measure will be maintained, as the imagery will only live with the three county offices for their use only.
The contract was included in this fiscal year’s budget.
Assessor Bulgrin told the commissioners this week the total cost, each year, over the course of six years, will be $25,312.12. Again, the money will be taken from the county’s reappraisal sinking fund.
The company will do two flyovers of the county – he said they will do the first this fall (after the crops are out and the leaves are off the trees) and then again in three years. “Change-finder” technology will also help point out things that have changed over that time period.
“This information will not be available to the public, just the York County Sheriff’s Department and dispatch will get this as it will be of great value to them,” Bulgrin reiterated.
Leila Luft, director of the York County Emergency Communications Center, added, “We will be able to have updated maps with the updated imagery. And there will be free integration,” meaning there will be no extra charge for her agency to receive/use that information.
“We have done aerial photography for years, but this is much more advanced,” said Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier.
“Yes, we will be able to do measurements from our desk,” Bulgrin said.
“This then should also save some of the costs of going out into the field,” Obermier added.
Bulgrin also noted no payments would be made until the imagery is received.
“I feel better about it not being open to the public, to protect some privacy,” Ziegler said. “It is what it is.”
“Is there benefit to other entities which we could partner with, for a share of cost, like the city for an example?” asked Commissioner Daniel Grotz.
“In Hamilton County, they partnered with the city of Aurora which participated in the cost,” Bulgrin said.
“If we have access to this, we could ask if they are interested,” Grotz said.
“I could reach out to the city,” Bulgrin said. “We already have the partnership with the city for the communications center, so there is that already. I will reach out.”
Grotz also asked if the company offered any sort of estimate regarding what other counties found in added valuation when embarking on this project. Bulgrin said he didn’t recall a certain percentage being spoken of, as the potential of new valuation being found.
“But, unfortunately, we know there will be things out there that will be found which we didn’t know about before,” Obermier noted.
Grotz also noted the cost to the county is much lower than what was initially presented. Bulgrin said that was due to the fact a number of neighboring counties are also contracting with this same company, which allows the cost to be lower.
Obermier also added that “we did just plain aerial photography 7-8 years ago, and that cost $75,000 even without this technology.”
It was again noted the sinking fund exists, which the county has been putting money into for years, for this very purpose.
“It’s still a big expense, but with this much lower amount, it is easier to stomach,” Grotz added.
“And given the privacy measure is built in, I will make a motion to approve this contract,” Ziegler said.
The rest of the commissioners agreed and voted in favor to move ahead.
The reason aerial companies wait to do the imagery work in the fall, after the harvest and after the leaves have fallen, is so there is a clearer view with no obstructions.