LAS ANIMAS — Las Animas County Commissioners took a step into the future during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb., 16, by approving, with a 3-0 vote, a contract with Pictometry. The contract is worth $390,284.95, and will take three years to pay off, beginning with the current year and going through 2018. California based Pictometry has developed software to enhance aerial photography, resulting in high definition data that offers an oblique view, giving assessors an exterior view of roof tops and walls. It will also make comparisons to structures photographed a second time in a subsequent fly over, looking for improvements to previously photographed structures. The accuracy is to within a quarter of an inch. By approving the contract, the county commissioners are gambling that the payoff in newly found structures and improvements on properties in the county will increase the revenues coming in. The downside to the gamble is if revenues increase by 5.5 percent, the county will have to return tax money to the tax payers and see a further reduction in an already depressingly low mill levy. “We know that right now there
are about 100 to 125 structures that we can’t get to,” Las Animas County Assessor Jodi Amato told the World Journal in an interview Feb. 24. “This is because of lack of access, locked gates, and no trespassing signs.” The total estimated revenue to the county from the assessed value of the inaccessible structures for the 2016 budget year is about $130,000. “And those are the ones we have building permits for or we’ve discovered. We are the largest county in the state (about 5,000 square miles), that’s a lot of miles to cover. “People are building structures; barns, houses without pulling permits. So this will help us find those that aren’t coming in and pulling the paper work or permits to build.” Amato said the regulations are in the county’s building code and posted on the county’s website. Pictometry will create efficiencies in work output by the staff in the assessor’s office. Where it might take one person most of a work day and several gallons of gasoline to drive to a property near Kim, only to encounter a closed gate and have to return to the office without any assessments performed, Pictometry will be able to see structures from the air without violating any current trespass law and can’t be turned back by a locked gate. Four years ago, the assessor’s office had four appraisers. Now there is one three-quarter-time appraiser. “Due to budget cuts it is almost impossible to travel everywhere we need to discover new construction,” says Amato. The county sees Pictometry as a solution to the issue arising from budget cuts and staff reductions, to increase revenue without increasing taxes. The drop in property taxes has caused budget cuts unrealistic to the reality of governing. This in part created the budget problem the sheriff’s department suffered in 2015. The other part of the equation is DeBrucing the county. DeBrucing will stop the mill levy from falling any further while allowing the County to keep what they collect.