A multi-agency software system designed to streamline the planning and building permit process is now scheduled to go live at the end of July, five years after the project first began.
The $2.5 million Energov program will integrate data from property records, zoning, critical habitat, infrastructure like sewer, contractor licenses, building and parcel designs and much more into a single system that will allow inspectors from multiple departments to work on a permit application simultaneously, rather than shuffling paper from one desk to another.
The new system will be up and running July 26, Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst told a County Council committee Tuesday. The program was last anticipated to be completed in 2019, and then in March, 2020.
The system will allow permit applicants to input their information online through easy-to-use step-by-step screens.
Rodenhurst said users should expect some bumps in the road, with slowdowns in planning and permitting applications and a period of about a week to 10 days where no permits will be accepted at all while the data is migrated from the old systems to the new. Even then, there are two storerooms filled with paper documents that will, at some point, have to be scanned in and digitized to work with the new system.
“We’re not waiting for it to be perfect; we’re wanting it to be functional,” Rodenhurst said. “There will be some drops in service and we will communicate that. … We can’t get away from that. There will be lags in service in an already lagging system.”
Planning Director Zendo Kern anticipates a 30% reduction in productivity across his department during a one- to three-month learning curve after the system goes live.
In addition to the initial software cost, the county will have to spend money for a continued maintenance contract for the software, storage capability for the digital files, two dedicated information technology positions to oversee the project, and hardware including large-scale scanners and other equipment.
Council members seemed willing to find the money to make it work.
“Sometimes we have to not fund something and fully fund something else,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards. “Get us some budget numbers. … I recognize it’s going to be rocky, but its OK. Damn the torpedoes; we’re going forward.”
Council members were pointed in their questioning, but they also reiterated that the new directors inherited the project.
“Under the prior administration, leadership was clearly lacking with Energov and we saw things falling short,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz. “Things are going to get worse before they get better. … There’s going to be a lot of growing pains and this particular system is not going to be the be-all, end-all.”
Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung has heard it all before.
“Pardon me if I’m a bit skeptical. … You guys inherited this and I know that. But are you sure that this is going to become operational in July?” Chung said. “We’ve heard many things over the years and it’s very frustrating. … This is like the fourth presentation. How confident are you?”
Ready or not, the departments are going live, Kern said.
“We go. We burn the ships at the shore,” Kern said. “We make it work — period.”