New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon has directed the Department of Land Use to expand the county’s online permit application process in order to improve efficiency and foster a more business friendly environment for contractors and other constituents.
The Land Use Department’s pilot falls in line with the County Executive’s vision to improve customer service and reduce costs in County Government.
“People should not have to come in and wait for an hour or more to get a simple permit application processed,” Gordon said. “This is going to streamline the process for both our customers and the county.”
Chief Administrative Officer David A. Grimaldi and Executive Assistant William Shahan had met with local contractors who desired to see a more efficient application process. After that conversation, Shahan said he then met with Land Use Administrator Joseph Day III.
“I approached Joe and he was already in midstream of doing everything,” Shahan said.
“He just opened the doors a little bit wider to bring in more types of permits.”
Since 2009, 40 percent of the 17,862 HVAC permits had been issued by the NCC Land Use Department online, and 29 percent of the 6,637 plumbing permits had been issued online, Day said.
In 2012 alone, New Castle County handled 15,120 permits for new homes, additions, plumbing, heating, signs, pools and more.
Day felt the opportunity to apply online should be expanded beyond just plumbing, heating and air conditioning work in order to minimize the need to come into the office.
“If the customer can electronically send us his submission, we can review it, process it, approve and send it back,” he said. “It saves them time and money. It saves us time and money.”
NCC Information Systems informed Day that it would build the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site he needed and it also obtained the licenses for the Acrobat 9 Pro as well as the dual screens the department needed.
One of the hidden benefits of moving toward digital records is the gradual elimination of long term storage costs for files kept in perpetuity, Day said. In addition, Land Use staff is spending 50 to 70 hours per week to scan back permits on file to get those electronically stored as well. That will improve response times to Freedom of Information Act requests by making files more easily accessible. For instance, a parcel number can be typed in to find permits related to that property, he added.
In addition, the Land Use Department has added QR codes on permit file boxes to make inventory tracking much easier.
Shahan and Day said there were no major expenditures for this pilot. It mainly took man hours to train staff to get acclimated to online applications.
Five contractors have agreed to participate in the county pilot said, Day said. They include contractors from the in-ground pool, sign, general contractor and deck builder industries.
Day hopes the County can expand the availability of online permits in six months.
TOTAL PERMITS ISSUED ANNUALLY
2013 6,409 (YTD)