Permitting Process Soon to be Online

April 4, 2014
 
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

New software to streamline the town’s permitting process means residents will soon be able to save a trip to town hall and apply online.

Salem Selectmen unanimously voted Monday night to begin using ViewPoint Government Solutions ViewPermit to allow applicants to apply online and forgo an in-person application.

“It should provide a great benefit to the public and the staff,” said Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin.

The software also features a tablet-based interface inspectors can utilize in the field, allowing for instantaneous updates on a permit’s status, and a centralized data point.

Goodwin said Andover, Mass., currently uses the software and invited him down for a tour where it helped boost the inspections department.  About 70 percent of applicants apply online, he said.

“I’m so happy I can’t even tell you,” Selectman Everett McBride said about the software.

Salem will be the first New Hampshire municipality to use ViewPoint, and the company will need to build the program with state and local codes.

Carl Anderson, senior municipal relationship manager from ViewPoint, said the database will be customized with town codes, and existing data will be integrated.

Anderson provided a demonstration of the user interface from both the resident perspective and the inspector.

Goodwin said two finalists were chosen after multiple products were evaluated, and ultimately ViewPoint was selected.  He said the other alternative charged 4 percent of permitting fees which was detractive.

But funding allocations will need to be created to cover the costs of the new software, as it was not budgeted for in 2014.

Town Manager Keith Hickey said a one-time set up fee of $24,500 could be covered with funds remaining from a server room project.  Three to four months of service fees could also be covered from the fund along with money remaining from other projects.

Hickey added that $3,000 remained from monies allocated to replace and upgrade existing town computers.

Selectman Stephen Campbell raised concerns over a convenience fee charged to customers seeking to pay online.  He said a 3 percent convenience fee on a million dollar permit could substantially increase the cost.

Goodwin responded saying the program offered a pay-in-person option, allowing users to avoid the fee.

Anderson added a project requiring a substantial permit as mentioned would likely need to be done in person with the building department.  He suggested the software would address a majority of basic applications.  “I think there’s a real benefit to the town,” he said.

Anderson said ViewPoint would begin creating the program based on state and local codes and begin to provide training for employees.  He said the program could go live once testing and training were complete.

Campbell suggested setting a date for the software to be implemented citing the current program took almost four years to get started.

Goodwin hopes to have ViewPoint available for permitting later this year.