On Feb. 12, members of the Rockport Select Board decided against immediately acting on a proposal by assessor Kerry Leichtman to spend approximately $22,000 on updated aerial photography of the town.

Five years ago, the town invested in orthoimagery (aerial photography) which was captured as a plane flew above Rockport. The imagery, which can be accessed by members of the public via the website MapGEO, allows residents to view property lines and property assessment information. Leichtman said that in addition to using the information within his department, it is useful to the public works and planning offices.

The technology has become more affordable as communities share the costs through a partnership with the federal government and state.

Leicthman proposed that this year the town invest in a sharper resolution. Planes which photograph Rockport are expected to fly in the coming months between the time that snow melts and trees begin to fill with leaves.

After hearing Leichtman's proposal, Selectman Mark Kelley asked Town Manager Rick Bates what the balance in the town's reserve funds looked like as Rockport approaches its 2017-2018 budget season.

"We're not going to have as much as we usually do…last year we had an excess of $100,000, which we turned over to our UFB [account], which was money that we didn't spend. The previous year it was in the $200,000 range," said Bates.

He said repairs to the Annis Lane Bridge, which were unforeseen and unbudgeted, contributed to the reduction in funds.

Bates said that the need for the proposed upgrades came after the previous year's budget commitment, and that the money for the upgrade is currently in the town's overlay account as part of Rockport's general fund. Leichtman said that if the board went forward with the upgrade, he would "overspend a line" in his assessing budget, if the money were to come out of the town's general fund.

Chairman Ken McKinley asked Leichtman how his job as assessor would be impacted if the board did not proceed with the upgrade. Leichtman said that it would be more difficult for him to map properties in town, but that the planes conducting the fly-overs and taking the pictures could make the runs the following year if the town wanted to budget to have the work completed in 2019. It was unclear whether the aerial data the town purchased would be a year old, in the event that the planes gathered the data this year regardless of the board's decision.

"My concern is that this has already been an expensive year…and I have an uncomfortable feeling going into the budget season, so if we could put this off for a year, I'd be more comfortable with that," said Selectman Doug Cole. Bates said that because the money for the photos had already been raised and was in the town's overlay account, it would have no impact on bringing down this year's budget.

"That's where I have a problem, because that's not what that account is for. Quite honestly, if money was placed in the overlay account with the idea of buying this, I have a real problem with that; the overlay account is to cover abatements — it's not to put something in there that didn't go through the budget process," said McKinley.

McKinley said that although he agreed that the product was of value to the town, if a motion were made to purchase the photography that evening using monies in the overlay account, he would not vote for it. Kelley agreed that he wasn't comfortable with the idea.

Selectman Owen Casas asked Leichtman how the investment in the imagery could potentially carry a cost savings to the town by expediting his work on deeds and tracing property lines.

"If I could show you a video of me going through a deed and trying to make a correction on a tax map, it's insane. I have no authority to turn a deed down; and if I did, maybe as many as 15 percent of them I wouldn't accept, because they follow old maps or landmarks, which no longer exist…if I could see the stream better, if I could see a stone wall better…," said Leichtman.

"In these instances where you can't see the stream or the stone wall, what do you do?" asked Casas.

"Roll a dice," said Leicthman.

"So you don't jump in the truck and go and walk the property line?" asked Casas.

"No, I don't have the time for that, that's just a manpower thing that I couldn't do, and I'm not a surveyor," said Leichtman.

Kelley made a motion, seconded by Cole, to table discussion of purchasing the orthoimagery until a March Select Board meeting. McKinley said that if Leichtman brought more information to the board at that time, they would reconsider the proposal although the deadline for the fly-overs may elapse.