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3/31/2017

Local Government

Building Permits Made Easy

The building department is a resource dependent department that typically generates various types of records and requires significant interactions with other departments.


 

An Example of a Prototypical Public Works’ Responsibility: Building Permits

The main phases of a typical workflow process are as follows:



Application

During the application process, the applicant completes a paper or electronic form that is delivered to the public works department. The completion of this documentation then triggers a workflow that includes:


  • Checking land records to verify that the permit is for the correct property, location, zoning, etc.;
  • Confirmation that the relevant fees are collected by finance;
  • Evaluating whether all supporting documentation for permit (drawings, plans, engineering reports, etc.) have been delivered;
  • Correspondence with the applicant to ensure that the applications are properly completed.

Review / Approval

Once the application is complete the review and approval process can begin.


  • Every department and sub-department that is involved in reviewing the documentation receives a copy of the documentation generated in the application; this includes finance, zoning, legal, etc.;
  • Each department then stores a copy of these records and as a result it becomes very easy to have different departments working on different or unapproved versions;   
  • The department in question will generate an opinion that is documented along with the reasoning for the required changes needed to the application in order to grant approval;
  • Public consultations are often needed and involve extensive note taking to record and evaluate citizen’s concerns;
  • Public Works will assemble all of the opinions and, if appropriate, give a final recommendation on approval of the requested permit;
  • If there are deficiencies noted in any of the opinions there will be additional correspondence with the applicant and documentation relating to remedial actions to take place;
  • This process often goes through several iterations before all the requirements are met.

 


Permit Generation

After the project is approved additional documentation may be requested such as:


  • Responses to public inquiries;
  • Responses to media inquiries;
  • Requests to public utilities (water hookup, sewer hookup, etc.);
  • Fee collection;
  • By-law enforcement (construction parking, etc.);
  • Working with other municipal departments if the city has to make accommodations for the project (road closures, new traffic signals, etc.).

 

Inspection

  • During and after project completion the property will be inspected to make sure that all provisions in the permit are being met;
  • This will result in more documentation being generated and possible remediation being ordered if any aspect of the construction is not in compliance with the permit awarded;
  • In order to do this the relevant documents (permit, drawings, engineering plan, etc.) must be made available to the inspector;

 

The diagram below demonstrates the number of processes and interactions involved in meeting the needs of the building department.



The example above is just one of many daily processes that the public works department may face.  There are many copies of records which are continually being updated and changed. Every time a record is accessed there is an opportunity for losses, damage, misfiling or the risk of relying on an outdated version. With a number of different documents, departments and roles involved, unnecessary delays can occur. Higher costs and negative impact to constituents and developers are potential consequences of delays, not to mention the possible loss of credibility due to unforeseen errors.


In order to be compliant, even very small municipalities will need to deal with a large volume of records to accomplish this one simple task. In an increasingly digital age, citizens and builders are also demanding access to these records online, or to be used as part of a larger overall process that may span other requests or departments.



Ricoh has implemented various records management and process automation systems at dozens of municipalities across the country. A record-centric approach to the implementation, while reflecting the proficiencies of the active departments, makes it easier and more efficient, to manage processes in a fraction of the time it took before. This often results in eliminating the need for duplication and paper records altogether. Even more appealing, it can be leveraged beyond one or two departments, to provide automated reuse, improved awareness, process connectivity, and defensible overall compliance.




Ricoh is experienced in document management and creating effective workflows for municipalities. Visit our website for information.