MOUNT VERNON — With the implementation of its new permit application software, the Mount Vernon Development Services Department is promising a faster, easier process for those who apply for permits.
The SmartGov program will make it easier for city staff to collaborate on applications for building, engineering, fire and planning permits, said Chris Phillips, director of the department.
“It’s about a 50 percent reduction in time (to receive a permit),” he said, based on research he did on other municipalities that use this software.
Phillips said the city will start processing new applications digitally beginning Tuesday.
With more work being done online, applicants will be able to avoid phone calls or visits to city hall, and staff will be able to respond more quickly to their questions.
For applicants, all work can be submitted through a web browser, so there’s no need to download anything, he said.
Phillips said the new system will make scheduling property inspections easier by letting applicants do it online, and they will be updated on the results of an inspection on the same day.
From the perspective of city staff, Phillips said staff will essentially be given a to-do list with each application that they can collaborate on.
All correspondence and submissions are recorded and time-stamped, so neither the city nor contractors can dodge responsibility in the instance of a prolonged permit process, he said.
“We’re dragging ourselves into the 21st century,” Phillips said.
For those who are less comfortable working online, he said city hall has a kiosk and scanner that can be used with help from staff.
Between buying the software, training and equipment, Phillips said the city spent about $180,000 and expects to spend $75,000 annually on maintenance.
To cover this, he said fees on applications are increasing.
There is now a 3 percent technology fee on top of the cost of building permits, but there is no technology fee on engineering, fire and planning permits.
Once the new software is rolled out, the fee will be 6 percent on all permits, and engineering permits will have an additional $25 fee.
Phillips said the goal is for the fees to pay for about 75 percent of maintenance costs.
He said other cities that use SmartGov have said public records requests will decline because the software makes information on properties more accessible. This would save the city money by freeing up staff.