March 8, 2012 in Washington Voices

Valley installs new permitting software

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A switch to new software in the Spokane Valley planning department has left employees happy but busy as they work to adapt to a program that offers so many more benefits than the old software that it nearly boggles the mind.

“It’s a way bigger deal than we imagined,” said Community Development Director John Hohman. No longer do employees have to maintain multiple databases to try to track permit applications. It’s not just new software but a whole new way of doing business, Hohman said.

“We were doing so many different things, but none of them were coordinated,” he said. “What we’ve done since incorporation is all being changed now. There’s so much more that this software can do.”

The city was using Plus software created by Spokane County many years ago. When the county opted to stop supporting the program and switch software, Spokane Valley was forced to follow suit. Both jurisdictions chose Paladin Smart Gov permit tracking software. It went live in Spokane Valley a little more than two weeks ago.

The difference is profound, said senior permit specialist Mike Turbak. On one screen employees can click on the type of permit, its status, when it was filed and what department is reviewing it. Finding that information used to take several phone calls around the building to find which department had the paper file with the documents in it. “There was always a disconnect,” Turbak said. “Now it’s all here. You can attach documents, you can attach notes.”

Another screen shows the contacts, contractors, valuations, conditions and inspections connected to each permit.

The old system could only be searched if you knew the address or parcel number. Now employees can search for just about anything, including the name of the property owner or the name of a contractor. “I used to have to ask someone to write a query for me,” Turbak said.

Other agencies such as local utility companies and the Health Department will be able to sign in and do their reviews over the Internet. In a couple of months the city will open the internal website to the public.

Hohman said the early hiccups need to be ironed out and his employees need to become proficient in the new system before it can be made public. Employees also need time to work through a backlog of permits that were started on the old software system and will be completed with the new software. “We are still tuning this up,” he said.

The plan is to have a public meeting with local developers, contractors and other interested parties in April to see what kind of information people would like to see available. The public portion of the site should be running by early summer, Hohman said.

Turbak said he likes working with the new system and said it is like the “handcuffs are off.” His department has no interest going back to the old ways, he said. “It gives us a chance to do it completely better.”


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