Home photos pulled from Island County website
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
December 2, 2010 · Updated 3:28 PM
Responding the concerns about privacy and safety, Island County Assessor Dave Mattens decided to take down photographs of homes from the office's online database.
It's not the best or even a permanent solution, he said, but "a temporary stopgap measure."
"It didn't solve the problem, but just shifted the problem," Mattens said. "It's going to make some people happy, but it will upset other people."
Mattens spearheaded the acquisition this year of new software for the assessor and treasurer's office. When the mountains of data were transferred over to the new system, all of the photos that the appraisers had taken of houses ended up on the searchable online database.
A number of people in the community complained about the photos of their houses being online; they were especially concerned about images taken from backyards and places not visible from public areas.
The News-Times published a story about the issue Wednesday; Mattens said he then received calls from TV news stations. After that, he decided to take down all the photos.
Mattens explained that all of the photos are public information that's valuable for real estate agents, mortgage company officials and appraisers. Now those people will have to come to the Coupeville office to see the images.
Mattens said that the original goal was to limit the images available online to views of houses that can be seen from the street. But it may be a long time before those images are back up.
Mattens said his office is badly understaffed because of budget cuts. The staff simply doesn't have the time to go through thousands of parcels and take out offending photos.
"It's just going to sit there in limbo until we can get the resources to work on it," he said.
Mattens will likely be gone before that happens. He lost in the general election to Mary Engle, an appraiser in the office. She has said that she's opposed to photos, particularly the more invasive ones, being on the internet.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.