The Town of Islip is touting a new software program as the solution to many of the frustrations expressed by builders and homeowners over the years when it comes to obtaining building permits.
Permit Net, which is now live, gives Town employees the ability view an application's status and various steps all on one screen.
"I don't have to track down four people," said Town Councilman Anthony Senft during a presentation on Permit Net at Town Hall West Thursday. "I can see what everyone is doing."
While many local governments have moved toward a more efficient, electronic system of processing permits, the Town of Islip developed the new software "in-house" at a cost of about $10,000 in staff time and labor, Senft said.
That's a small fraction of the cost other municipalities are paying for new software, as well as annual fees for licenses and maintenance, Senft said.
"We are saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while improving your government," said Senft, who cited the Town's gaping budget deficit as one of the reasons the Town turned to its own staff to develop the software.
The Town also purchased seven Panisonic Toughbook laptops (at a cost of about $2,000 each) along with wireless printers for building inspectors to use in the field.
Inspectors will be able to enter information into Permit Net immediately and when they leave a site, they can print out information for a resident or builder explaining exactly what just took place and the next steps ahead, Senft said.
Inspectors will also be armed with digital cameras so they can upload photos from the field and get judgment calls and immediate guidance from other Town departments if needed, Senft said.
It's all welcome news for people like Vinny Calvosa, the executive director of the Islip Committee at the Long Island Builders Institute.
"We are certainly impressed with the fact that they've taken our concerns very seriously," said Calvosa after watching a demonstration of the new software. "A lot of our projects are in desperate need of this efficiency in permits and certificates of occupancy so we are excited to see this in action."
So far, comparing 2012 to 2011, it takes 16 days less time to issue a permit after an application and 110 days less to issue a certificate of occupancy, according to Islip Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway.
"It's a fantastic example of how the program has assisted us already," he said.
One of the biggest issues in the past, Calvosa said, is that applications would get lost in the shuffle and "nobody could say where it was or where it was heading."
That is all in the past now, Senft said, speaking of previous cases where an inspector has gone on vacation and the applicant is left in the dark for weeks.
"That will never happen" under the new software," Senft said as the inspector can now file a report wirelessly and upload information on-site. "That employee can go on vacation for the next month. The work is already done."
It's still months away from being implemented, but the Town plans to eventually give applicants a password that they can use to access their application online and view its status in real-time.
"We have lots of challenges in the Town of Islip and one of those is an employee shortage," he said "so if I can eliminate you calling my employee and saying, 'Where is my permit?' You can just get on the computer, access this program and you can find OK, it's in review in front of the engineer today and there's an inspection scheduled for Friday from plumbing."
Calvosa said builders and developments need certainty and answers as to when they will have permits as "business models revolve around time and dollars and cents."
Permit Net, Calvosa said, is a "terrific first step" in that direction.