Putting the customer first – whether it is the little guy seeking a permit to install a new water heater or a developer seeking to build a massive employment center – inspired a physical and attitude makeover of the Manteca Community Development Department.
The project – dubbed the “one stop permit center” – is designed to streamline the municipal permitting process and reduce the time it takes to process a project.
“We understand that time is money,” said Mark Nelson, director of the Community Development Department.
Manteca examined four one-stop permit centers that earned high marks from residents and developers alike in Roseville, Woodland, Sacramento and Placer County to get an idea of both the process and physical layout.
Work is now going on to complete the physical part that Nelson noted is essential to make the streamlining process work. The remodeling is targeted for completion by Aug. 1.
A new entrance to the department will be punched through the western wall of the existing Community Development Department lobby. A counter will run 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.
Nelson said 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.
“We no longer accept incomplete applications,” Nelson said. “We push it right back across the counter to them.”
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.
Bringing representatives of all municipal departments - public works, community development, police and fire – into one location to review applications not only cuts down processing time significantly but it also saves the city money.
It is allowing the elimination of two positions through cross-training that will save $150,000 a year, meaning the overall cost of the project that included shifting offices around and remodeling will end up being recouped in three years.
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.
Nelson noted that Manteca is getting ready to process a slew of retail and employment center applications. The streamlining made possible by the one-stop conversion not only means a quicker turn around but municipal staff will be able to do more work with less people.