A construction boom has Pasco County receiving applications for building permits nearly at pre-recession levels, county officials say.
But, the required paperwork — coupled with the kickoff of a new software program — is straining the county’s capabilities.
At least right now.
“We think we’re on the bottom side of the problem and getting it under control,” said Don Rosenthal, assistant county administrator.
Part of the solution involves reshuffling duties within the building department and plans to hire five new employees.
The new employees will replace about a half-dozen staffers who left their jobs, often citing workloads.
“We’ve had some staff leave because of the pressure to turn things around quickly, and the overwhelming volume of work and the change,” said Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker.
Pasco County commissioners made clear they’re tired of the complaints they’re hearing from developers about having to wait too long to get permits approved.
“It is very, very frustrating,” said Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader. “I’m getting overwhelmed with complaints,” he said, during the commission’s June 7 meeting in Dade City.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey agreed: “I think we’ve all been getting these calls.”
Starkey said commissioners were ready to do whatever is needed to help staff get things on track.
Baker said she would ask commissioners to approve new hires at their June 21 commission meeting.
The software program, known as Accela, allows for online applications and is intended to speed up the process and be more transparent. But Rosenthal said, as with any new technology, there is a learning curve and glitches to work through.
“That was no small task,” he said.
Employees are working through about a two-week backlog of applications. That is significantly less than it was, Rosenthal said.
Right before the launch of the software program, some developers brought in bundles of plans. One delivered 200 plans.
“We concentrated on these because we were told they were an emergency,” Rosenthal said.
That proved not to be the case, and about half the plans haven’t been picked up.
That was time and work that could have been directed toward other applications, Rosenthal said.
He added that many of the complaints being heard by commissioners already have been resolved.
However, commissioners want improvements in customer service.
“Give them some explanation, so at least they have some understanding,” said Schrader. “I think you get so much more with honey.”
Schrader suggested giving applicants a letter, with their payment receipt, that explains the software program and reasons why applications could be delayed.
Commissioner Mike Wells agreed.
“They need to find a way to say yes, not a way to say no,” he said. “I know they are busy, but they are in the customer service business.”
Baker said plans are underway to create a newsletter to provide information on what’s going on at the building department.
Published June 22, 2016