Aquinnah interested in upgrading software

Town isn’t getting what it needs from county mapping service.


Aquinnah selectmen discussed at their Tuesday meeting a software program that could be integrated into a number of different facets of town business.

The software, called CAI Technologies, is used for precision mapping and geospatial services.

According to town administrator Jeff Madison, the program could be used to replace the obsolete GIS (geographic information system) software previously used by the assessors’ office.

Madison said he spoke with a member of CAI, who explained to him how to use the assessors mapping service. He also said that very few municipalities are using the antiquated GIS software, and mentioned that last year, Edgartown pulled out of its contract with GIS.

After speaking with members of CAI, Madison said he received correspondence from Dukes County manager Martina Thornton, requesting that the town renew its contract for GIS services.

Madison also noted that contained in the correspondence from the county, was the 5 percent administrative fee Thornton has been pressing for in various Island towns.

“What does the county do? We have never gotten a straight answer. She has started this 5 percent administrative processing fee on everything they do. To me, that is just an add-on to their budget. It may be small dollars, but I’m not buying it,” Madison said.

In regards to the old GIS software, Madison said, “I don’t know what it does, but it is an expense that we don’t need.”

Police Chief Randhi Belain said the GIS software is normally used by the communications center to create map pins, so first responders know where to go during emergencies.

“Historically, I believe we have paid into it. Going forward, could that change? Very possibly.” Belain said.

Selectman Gary Haley asked if the CAI software is capable of accomplishing the same tasks as the obsolete GIS program. “Yes, and we are not using that to its full capabilities,” Madison responded.

Madison said other communities input building permits, septic plans, subdivision plans, and deeds into the program at no extra cost.

The town signed a three-year contract in 2018 for GIS services, but Madison said there was nothing included in the original contract that mentioned an additional 5 percent administrative fee.

“There was no commitment to pay 5 percent, and I am not in favor of it. If the county wants to increase its budget, they can darn well justify that to us,” Madison said.

“So what they are doing is adding this on to an already signed contract? That’s ridiculous,” selectman Jim Newman said.

In other business, Aquinnah selectmen reviewed a letter from health agent Phoenix Becker requesting a communications antenna be installed on top of the town hall.

The board agreed to allow installation of a nine-foot antenna that will help with emergency communications in the event of a power outage, or if phone lines are damaged.

The addition of the antenna is in conjunction with the Aquinnah emergency preparedness initiatives lead by Noli Taylor, to prepare the town for natural disasters brought upon by climate change.

Madison said the emergency preparedness group received a grant to purchase their own walkie-talkies so they can communicate with one another in the event of a storm or flood.

The antenna will be installed over the dormer near the back door of the town hall.

“I think it’s a good thing,” selectman Juli Vanderhoop said.