The county’s paperless permit system went live Monday, and it is EPIC.
That’s not to say the new Energov program was without its bumps in the road. EPIC — short for Electronic Processing &Information Center — is the name of the Energov program that was five years and more than $2.5 million in the making.
“We are going to stop accepting paper applications and are moving to a completely electronic system,” said Norren Kato, planning program manager, at a public hearing Monday.
The 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 cloud-based system that will allow inspectors from multiple departments to work on a permit application simultaneously, rather than shuffling paper from one desk to another.
There were no testifiers at the public hearing, meaning the new rules enabling EPIC to begin will be filed Monday with the county clerk and take effect shortly thereafter, Kato said.
But a testifier at meetings of the two planning commissions, as well as at least one planning commissioner, wanted assurances that members of the public who don’t have the skills or computer access would still be able to apply for permits.
Questions about power and internet outages, lack of access or ability for applicants to submit their applications and ability of the public to view documents they currently can see at the Planning Department offices arose from commissioners and testifier Cory Harden at planning commission meetings.
“Somebody that doesn’t have a computer, somebody that is not computer literate, somebody that wants to fill out a paper application will now no longer be able to do so,” noted Windward Planning Commissioner Joseph Clarkson. “You’re recommending an ordinance being enacted that would absolutely prohibit the submission of a paper application.”
Kiosks will be set up at both the Hilo and Kona Planning Department offices for applicants and the public to use and to learn the system, officials said.
Planning Director Zendo Kern and Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst will hold a webinar 4 p.m. Aug. 5 to explain the system.
The public can learn more about the system at https://www.dpw.hawaiicounty.gov/divisions/building/plans-permits-and-inspections-system .
Mayor Mitch Roth, who’d made streamlining the permit process one of his top seven campaign pledges, did not return a phone message to his office by press-time Monday.
But a comment attributed to him was provided by a spokesman via email.
“Today’s launch of the EPIC system is our administration’s first step toward addressing our county’s outdated permitting process — one that has been the center of community concern and frustration for far too long. The road to get here wasn’t easy and wouldn’t have been made possible without the outstanding work of Directors Kern, Rodenhust, and Uehara, as well as their teams, who worked countless hours to get the project done in a timely fashion,” the statement said. “Removing the ‘red tape’ that government is known for is a focal point of our administration, and we are proud to have the community behind us as we do so.”