In less than a month, the county’s building and zoning permitting systems are going paperless, and officials are optimistic they’ll be ready.
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 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.
Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst and Planning Director Zendo Kern say they’re moving forward and not looking back, kicking off the new program July 26. While some bumps are expected along the way, the results will be worth it, officials said.
“Our team is working tireless hours to address the gaps identified during our public testing period, and are confident that we will be ready to go-live with our County of Hawaii Electronic Processing and Information Center (EPIC system) on July 26 and start accepting applications online on the July 28. We’re extremely excited for the transition to an all-digital system, taking us away from a tedious and notoriously cumbersome process, and are prepared to address any issues brought forth by the public at-large upon implementation,” Kern said. “As with anything new, we would like to thank the public for their patience as we aim to deliver a much needed upgrade to our current service.”
In addition to saving time, the program, five years in the making, will mean a lot less paper for applicants and the county. Instead of having to make five, 10 or even 20 copies of lengthy paper forms, applicants will submit a form digitally without having to visit the planning or permit offices.
Bill 46, setting the stage for the departments to create the new protocols through administrative rules, is scheduled for its first hearing Wednesday before the County Council. Both the Windward and Leeward planning commissions approved the first of the changes during their June meetings, and will meet July 15 in a joint session for additional amendments.
“I feel confident in the abilities of our directors of Planning, Public Works, and IT to align their teams and go live with EPIC by Energov at the end of the month. I think when the original commitment to go live was made, there wasn’t a full understanding as to the depth of work on the backend that needed to happen,” council Planning Committee Chairwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said. “It was a tremendous undertaking with numerous challenges, but the bottom line is it’s finally being delivered. I have to credit all county personnel pushing hard to make it happen. I anticipate some bumps in the road with the launch, but that’s to be expected with anything new.”
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.
“We will be accepting applications only online, only digital, we will not have paper submittals anymore as we move forward,” Kern told the commission. “We will have the kiosks there, we will have the ability to show people how to do so, we will have a list of places that they can scan any documents if they need to.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald