BRIEF CASE STUDIES OF SAVINGS THROUGH

STREAMLINING AND USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

 

 

Polk County, Florida

 

Growing frustration on the part of developers and builders over an antiquated permitting system within the county that caused long delays in the transfer of information in the project phase of development brought county officials together with the private sector to look at restructuring of regulatory processes and the possible application of information technology to increase government efficiency.

 

In addition to the above, the devastating storms of the 2004 hurricane season that struck the county ended up having the building department’s telephone lines tied up with citizens’ calls trying to identify “legitimately licensed contractors” to come and do repairs on homes and businesses.

 

In response to the above, Initiatives undertaken in 2004 brought online several new services for the county’s clients, improving overall program and construction efficiency and speeding disaster recovery. Among those services are:

 

 

The online system has saved the county three man-years of labor since its implementation in the fall of 2004. Used during the disaster recovery process, the permit software and Permit Status Viewer speed the tracking and reporting to FEMA of damage and the reconstruction of the community.

 

 

Currently under final testing prior to its release or under development are:

 

 

Advice from Polk County to other jurisdictions considering using information technology includes:

 

ü     Choose your vendors carefully and make sure your vendor understands upfront what your objectives are.

ü     Ensure that the vendors you have brought in can furnish software that meets your service expectations and your timelines.

 

Polk County’s system can be viewed online through the Polk County website, www.polk-county.net, and more information on their program can be obtained from Charlotte Fillmore at 863-534-6488.

 

INSERT PHOTO OF POLK CO LOBBY

 

Chicago, Illinois

 

A city of 2.8 million, Chicago has divided its building codes and public safety program into two separate divisions: the Department of Construction and Permits (DCAP) which issues permits and has over 107 full time employees; and the Department of Buildings (DOB) which performs building inspections and has 312 full time employees.

 

The Department of Construction and Permits in recent years received numerous complaints that the permit time was too long and that it was difficult to initiate and schedule building inspections on projects with many different inspection processes on the same building disconnected and their information difficult to access or report upon.

 

To address this problem, DCAP contracted with a software vendor to put in place an online applications system. The system, along with other improvements, has reduced times to permit by 50%, annually saving both the city and its customers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

Chicago recommends that other jurisdictions considering the application of information technology to one or more portions of their program to:

 

ü     Define the process, set the goals, and then apply the I.T. solution.

ü     Spend more time on understanding the current (administrative/regulatory) process and how to improve it before implementing the I.T. solution.

For more information on the Chicago system, contact Christopher Bushell, First Deputy, Department of Construction and Permits, City of Chicago at cbushell@cityofchicago.org.


State of Oregon – The Oregon Streamlining Initiative

 

In 1997-98, the chief building regulatory official for the State of Oregon sought assistance from the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards in developing a process through which stakeholders in the building regulatory process could be brought together to work with the state to identify regulatory barriers to effective and efficient oversight of building design and construction and to take steps to eliminate those barriers.

 

In a series of stakeholder workshops and streamlining seminars held in Portland, Bend, Salem and Eugene, an agenda for change was developed for the state. After the statewide streamlining seminars took place in 1998, the state supported efforts by localities to undertake several simple streamlining models. Such models were relatively easy to undertake with minimum cost to the communities and each addressed a major customer concern. These included:

 

ü       Deschutes County developed uniform permit applications and established agreements between the Bend building department and those in small jurisdictions within the county. The agreement allowed a building official from Bend to staff a town’s one-person building department while that community’s lone code official took a vacation, was on sick leave or out for a training session.

 

ü       Legislation in 1999 created the Building Codes Division’s Tri-County Service Center to establish a regional permitting program for minor electrical and plumbing installations, standard permitting forms and process, standard fee methodologies, a dispute resolution process and a process to ensure the consistent application of code in the Portland tri-county area. The region permitting program boosted compliance and was so successful that it was expanded statewide within a year. The state launched the first online permitting service for its “Minor Label Program” in December 2004.

 

ü       With the passage of Senate Bill 713 in 2003, the above effort was combined with a pilot project in the metro-Portland area through which contractors can apply and pay for multiple trade permits from multiple jurisdictions on one convenient website. Launched on May 25, 2005, in the first three months of operation over 500 online permits were issued through this program representing $53,000 in permit revenue.

 

ü       A bill recently passed by the state legislature enables the State Building Codes Division to research the expansion of its current “BuildingPermits.Oregon.gov” system from the Portland tri-county area to a statewide system.

 

The 2003 Oregon bill (Model State Streamlining Enabling Legislation) and the 2005 bill (House Bill 3097, E-permitting) are available on the Alliance/National Partnership website, www.natlpartnerstreamline.org.

 

Fairfax County, Virginia

 

In the late 1990’s, builders in Fairfax County, Virginia, brought to the attention of Sophia Zager, the then County Building Official, documentation to the fact that this jurisdiction’s building regulatory process was causing unnecessary delays in the construction process. In one case, it had added an additional $100,000 per day to the cost of completing construction on a mid-rise office building.

 

In March 2000 the county brought together in a forum on “Streamlining the Building Regulatory Process Using Information Technology” approximately 80 key stakeholders from the construction and building regulatory community to discuss and explore actions that should be taken in a major multi-agency reassessment, restructuring, and reautomation effort. The objective of the effort was to move beyond the county’s then existing multiple stand-alone I.T. systems to a single platform, multi-agency use system that among other benefits:

 

 

 

 

 

 

To initiate that effort, the county studied and reengineered a number of its permitting and plan review processes. After a major call for proposals, a multi-agency project began in the spring of 2003. The county used a phased-in approach to develop and implement the above system. Working with the successful bidder and making maximum use of their own in-house I.T. personnel, Fairfax County implemented four modules in three agencies between September 2003 and March 2006. These modules include a contractor license module in January 2004 and permitting, plan review and inspections module in March 2006.

 

Among the manpower and time savings that are being achieved by the county in putting the above system in place are 50% reduction in time spent obtaining a building permit and scheduling inspections.

 

The Fairfax County initiative provided the basis for the Alliance/National Partnership’s “Model Procurement Requirements,” and the county has offered to share its experience and expertise with interested jurisdictions by contacting stephen.garnier@faifarxcounty.gov.