SHERIDAN — Several months after launching an online permitting process intended to help property owners and contractors streamline their development processes, Sheridan city officials say response to the new offering has been tepid.
Out of more than 175 permits issued by the building department so far in 2013, only about a dozen have been submitted through the online system.
Sheridan Public Works Director Nic Bateson said that while the process has the potential to save contractors a substantial amount of time, he believes the lukewarm response is due to unfamiliarity with the system.
“I just want the contractors to realize it’s not scary,” he said. “There are cost savings (associated with using this) for a contractor or an owner.”
Accessible via the building department section of the city’s website, the new software allows a prepared planner to apply, pay for and print a permit in less than five minutes.
City Building Official Kevin Bare said that while response has thus far been sluggish, those who have tried the software report being pleased with what they’ve found.
“They can’t believe how easy it is,” he said. “It’s really expedited the process.”
Bare said the system’s ability to forward a single application to every department necessary for final approval is a positive step forward — especially for contractors who apply for permits frequently.
“A big challenge sometimes with construction is just communication from one element to another,” Bare said.
For their part, city representatives are hopeful the new system will help alleviate some of that pain.
“It can save (hours) for any contractor,” Bare said. “It’s just a few clicks and in seconds you have a permit.”
While an improvement over the previous system that necessitated a trip to Sheridan City Hall, Bare admitted that the online system leaves room for improvement.
He said his staff is working with the software’s developer — ViewPoint Government Solutions of Belmont, Mass. — to make the system more user-friendly.
Currently users are required to upload files manually, but Bare said he’s hopeful a “drag and drop” uploading feature will be available sometime in the near future.
Despite previous concerns about the system’s online payment capabilities, online applicants are not subject to any additional fees.
When the software was introduced last February, concerns from City Councilor John Heath regarding an additional Paypal user fee prompted a discussion on how best to move forward with online payment.
In response to his concerns, the Council later approved a motion to waive the PayPal fee for applicants in order to keep costs on par with in-person applications.
Additionally, the system allows builders to request necessary inspections from city officials.
Bare said the one-stop-shop nature of the new offering stands to benefit anyone interested in building within city limits.
“Everyone can benefit from this,” he said.