E-system offers more options to permit applicants

Sean C. Morgan

Contractors and property owners in Sweet Home now have the ability to apply and pay for some building permits online.

The city joined the state’s e-permitting program on Oct. 20.

The change will save the city nearly $5,000 in annual subscription fees, said Public Works Director Mike Adams. That, along with improved efficiencies, is what prompted the change, but it may make things more convenient for the public as well.

“The only thing you could do was download our permit,” Adams said. Contractors still needed to fill the form out and return a physical copy to City Hall. Now, they can apply and check the status of permits online, he said.

The program is covered by a state surcharge on permit fees, Adams said.

City staff were looking for software to better track permits between the building division and the planning office, Adams said. They found a solution they preferred and then discovered the state Building Codes Division had a contract to use it. They also learned that the city could switch to that.

Switching over was time-consuming, Adams said, as city staff transferred the last five years of records to the new system.

Now, contractors can do a lot more online, he said. They can request inspections, and in certain cases, they don’t have to stop at City Hall at all. At some point in the future, they’ll be able to submit plans electronically for review.

Internally, planning and building employees can access the same information, Adams said. At some point, the software will interact with the city’s finance software.

“It’s a decent program,” said Molly Laycock, building permit technician.

The system improves information sharing within the city, and other people can look up information through the system.

“If you want to check and see if your neighbor has pulled a permit, you can look it up,” said Planning Services Manager Laura LaRoque.

The system was in use almost immediately.

“The first day we went live, one of the contractors, in Albany, I believe, bought a permit, paid for it and scheduled an inspection,” Laycock said. “That was within the first two hours.”

The program may be reached at http://www.oregon-epermitting.info/. The system requires registration.