By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,690)
“I was in here the beginning of July. I was trying to get a building permit and I still don’t have it,” Jim Mingo told one of the employees of the city’s inspections office earlier today. on the third floor of city hall. His anger became more and more apparent as his voice became louder and harder to ignore as he spoke with an employee about the application process. “I was told I would receive an invoice immediately that I could pay. That would get the approval process moving,” he continued still angry.
” I never received the invoice although I was told in early July that it would be put on a fast track,” Mingo told mhn.com who was in the same office looking at the application for 180 Washington Avenue, filed by architect David Harmon earlier this month. “This slowness is costing me money.” It was six weeks ago today that Mingo filed an application for a building permit and it still hasn’t been approved.
The permit approval Mingo sought was to replace a handrail and some of the decking on a deck of a home on the west end of Portland. “It’s a minor project,” he said annoyed. Mingo, who lives in Gray, said he has called the office every single day looking for the invoice so he can pay in order to trigger the review process. Mingo paid the invoice amount in person. The extraordinarly polite city employee apologized for the slowness of the process and told Mingo that his application would be reviewed within fifteen (15) days. Now another countdown begins 15, 14, 13, etc.
Mingo has a truffle company as well as his building company. It’s called Marleys Chocolate Lab and he ships all over the country. They are outstanding this sampler will confirm! Check out email@example.com or call 207 – 450-9374. You’ll be so glad you did. “I even plied them with truffles,” said Mingo his humor kicking in.
City employees are well aware of the slowness of the process and understand it is frustrating for contractors and developers. “We have them in here all the time trying to find out where their projects stand,” said one employee. In fact there are currently over ONE HUNDRED (100) applications for permits waiting to be entered into the office computer. Employees are working overtime to try and reduce that backlog and become current.
Why? Well there are probably many reasons for the slowness of the process. Recently several long-time employees of the office were transferred to another office in city hall. That was done in an effort to put on a more public-friendly face by employees not known for their helpful customer service approach. New employees had to be hired to replace them. They take time for on-the-job training. Also, the number of applications has greatly increased during this time of greatly increased gentirification and construction.
For years, this office has suffered from criticism for its slowness in processing applications and a lack of organization. In the past, it was blamed on inefficient computer systems among other factors. Inspectors were keeping records of inspections in their automobiles because of a lack of computers. The City has the computers. Now what’s the problem?
On October 26, 2015, a memo from Julie Sullivan, Chief of Staff to Jon Jennings, City Manager summarized that: “60% of application volume is small, residential rehab projects. I suggest re-tooling the front-end process to triage applications so that simple projects can move quickly and perhaps have permits issued on the spot, with front-end staff to work with customers needing assistance instead of entering data and uploading documents. It will also be critical to change the threshold for which projects require a zoning review and which do not. Currently, all projects are subject to a zoning review,” the 14-page memo said in part.
Is this what the city meant?