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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Council takes up proposal for online street openings permit system Monday

Utilities must get (and pay for) permits to open streets.

Plainfield City Council will take up an interesting and innovative proposal at Monday evening's combined Agenda/Business meeting -- which starts at 7:00 PM in the Courthouse. This will be the ONLY Council meeting in July.

The matter to be taken up (R 238-17) would have the City contract with Savory Technology Partners of Newark to provide an online street openings permitting process.

According to Director of Public Works and Urban Development Orrin Dabney, the city receives about 600 requests for street and sidewalk openings each year. These are submitted on paper forms and a written permit is issued which must either be mailed to the applicant or picked up by the applicant with a second visit to the Division's offices.

Dabney estimates that the requests and backup materials (including plans and drawings) generate 12,00 pages of paper files that must be maintained by the Division. He says that as of 2016, the Division has run out of physical space to store more documents, necessitating a new approach to the problem.

The inferene in the proposal is that customers (residential or business -- including utilities) would be able not only to fill out the permit form online but would be able to add the plans and drawings necessary for the Division to make an inormed decision.

Fees would be $5/opening for resident requestors and $10/opening for businesses and utilities.

Dabney estimates that the City would save considerably in staff time needed to search and retrieve paper files and to answer customer inquiries about the status of permits.

Additional benefits to the City will include quicker acess by the City to the funds and minimizing human error associated with manually processing payments.

The only question I can see that might be raised by the public is whether the applications and permits will be available for online inspection by the general public. In fact, that would be a perfect question for Councilor Toliver, who has made a point of keeping a sharp eye on street openings.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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