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One-stop permit center opens house Thursday

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POSTED August 26, 2009 2:55 a.m.
The runaround at City Hall that many experienced over the years trying to secure permits for building and businesses is finally coming to an end this Thursday with the opening of Manteca’s one-stop permit center.

A 10 a.m. open house with light refreshments will mark the completion of the remodel at the Civic Center where the main access to the Public Works Department was once located. It is far moiré than a remodel, however. The one-stop permit center is designed to jettison a bureaucratic culture to increase efficiency plus reduce turnaround times for city permits.

“This (the one stop center) will allow us to streamline operations to better service the public,”  noted Community Development Director Mark Nelson.

The remodel – costing just over $200,000 that was taken from development agreement “bonus bucks” to assure developers of residential sewer certainty - is actually impacting the general fund that still has a deficit to deal with in a positive way. By combing various operations together, existing personnel can be trained to do what was done in other departments. The bottom line is that two positions just vacated recently through retirement won’t have to be replaced as permit technicians are being retrained to split the functions   between them. That represents an annual savings of $200,000 that will keep repeating itself as the years go by.

“The one permit center will pay for itself in the first year,” Nelson noted.

There were also other costs associated with the changes that required shifting personnel around at the Civic Center plus relocated the human resources off site to the same Cherry Lane building that information and technology services are now located. The city was able to renegotiate a lower per square footage lease than they were already paying for the existing space. Again, funds to pay for that and other improvements came from the bonus bucks and not the general fund.

A person who goes to the one stop center on Thursday afternoon for something as simple as a permit to replace a water heater will find they can do everything in one place. All of the technicians that would have to review the permit and sign off will be in one location.

A new entrance to the department has been punched through the western wall of the existing Public Works/Community Development building. A counter now runs the length of the lobby. When people enter, they will immediately see an employee in a prominent central position along the counter. That employee will examine the submittal of plans to make sure it is compete.

In the past the city accepted incomplete applications. By the time it was determined there were missing documents, the applicant had left the building. In some cases, it wasn’t discovered there were missing items until the end of the multi-deparments review process. The additional information someone would prompt staff – such as the fire department – to recommend a change that would then have to go back through the entire approval process.

Instead of forcing applicants to return home or to their office, the remodel will have kiosk computers that they can access to retrieve information from their own computers at home or office.

Staff is also being retrained to understand all facets of the approval process which has helped speed up applicants at other one-stop operations in other cities.
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