Written by Heather Richards
In February, 2019, after one year of planning, preparation and training, the City of McMinnville launched our new epermitting program with the State of Oregon’s Accela program. And we are so glad that we did. This program has allowed us to add more efficiencies to our building and development program, with the electronic permitting capabilities, and internal coordinating and tracking of permits. We brought on the building, planning, and public works modules, and added some outside partners to the program for enhanced delivery of services to our customers.
We never could have accomplished this without the team at Oregon ePermitting. The staff went out of their way to accommodate us and help us through the transition. We are a small program and transitioning to a new software program is never easy, but the state team was very responsive to all of our questions and concerns, even adjusting their training to help our team feel more comfortable with the software. I was very impressed with the state team’s knowledge of the system, knowledge of the state building program, awareness of what it means to serve building program customers, and experience as a building permit technician. Our project manager worked with us and advised us along the way based upon our needs and goals with the program.
When it came time to go live, the state team was on-site with us helping our staff navigate the software program while serving our customers. We were trepidatious about the learning curve and adjustment to the new software, but it has actually been much easier than we thought to implement it and our customers love the new system.
One of the big topics of discussion and demonstration was the version update that was then due to come out in November along with Accela’s product roadmap for the upcoming year. This update is said to increase processing speed with an overall more responsive system to include a slightly different look for the UI. Accela reports that they are investing in enhancing and developing their existing product lines in order to stay a market leader.
Migration to Azure was another topic of discussion. Most jurisdictions I spoke with had not yet migrated but were planning to in the near future. Some jurisdictions had questions about how their reports or other customizations would be affected by the change. Accela staff were able to address some of these questions at the conference or point the jurisdiction to someone who could.
There were some sessions of the new Accela Cannabis Civic Solution. This module can automate licensing, renewals, investigations, and hearings if the jurisdiction has that type of program. Colorado has worked extensively with Accela to help create this software as an option for States that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana.
There was discussion and demonstration of the new Accela Success Community. The CEO discussed how not all helpdesk tickets were previously responded to in a timely manner and how the change in structure and personnel were changing that to improve communication with customers. Accela Success Community has documentation, training, a group site, and users can post ideas for the product teams.
Jefferson County’s Permit Tech Katrina Weitman was an early participant for the Master Scripts (MS3) project. They took a risk and allowed us to roll out our new MS3 scripting early into their Production agency and spent lots of their valuable time to help us test and report bugs. Because of their effort and willingness, we were able to iron-out all the identified issues before rolling out the scripts to all of our other Production agencies. Katrina was thorough and maintained ongoing communication with our team during this live testing process, and as a result she identified several issues we might not have identified so quickly. Because of her effort, and positive attitude, we were able to roll-out a more seamless upgrade to our other 60 plus agencies.
We appreciate Katrina and Jefferson County’s participation, by stepping-up to take on this ever-important role.
Ian Campbell joined the ePermitting team in May 2018. Ian works as a Business Systems Analyst on various projects within the division to improve customer service and transparency, streamline business processes, and improve communication between departments and all Oregonians that interact with Building Codes Division.
Ian was born and raised in Canada, moving to the US in 2008. He previously worked for a national healthcare company managing the local office here in Salem Oregon. Ian and his wife Krista were married on the beach in Jamaica before welcoming their first daughter Anni in 2017. This year the couple welcomed baby number two, Ellee, in June just as Ian was getting settled at ePermitting.
Ian has traded in his hockey skates and rugby cleats for golf clubs with the mild, if often times wet, Willamette Valley weather. He and his family enjoy exploring the Oregon outdoors; camping, hiking, kayaking and fishing.
Kedar Kurpad joined the ePermitting team in May 2018. As a Business Systems Analyst, he works in Building Codes on a variety of projects that will help make the Division’s services easier to use and more accessible for Oregonians.
Kedar moved here from Philadelphia and has experience working as a product manager for consumer electronics companies, as a project manager and consultant for an executive coaching firm, and as an educator working with students around the world.
He lives in Portland and plays guitar, brews beer, and explores Oregon’s wilderness in his spare time.
Dwelling permits have been the mainstay for the City of Happy Valley and in this relatively slow fiscal year (compared to years past). They have issued 112 single family permits and delivered 127 Certificates of Occupancy in that same time period.
The ability to group required permits for a single home into one record is a true benefit to the customers and staff. More so, enabling the inspections to be tracked on just one record is vital to the efficiency of production builders and the city staff that manage these permit records.
Naming Conventions: Since Happy Valley’s master plan encourages managed growth and economic development, there are typically 4-5 new subdivisions under construction at any given time. Naming conventions in the back office help the city manage and track these subdivisions. Any record for a single family dwelling will have a similar project name and description of work that includes the Subdivision Name, Lot Number, and square footage of the home. For example, the project description could be: Wooded Heights, Lot 15, NSFR 3500 sf. By using this same naming convention on all DWL records, the city staff can use the search page to easily locate all records within a subdivision or a specific lot. They also add the lot number into the “Unit” field when creating or adding addresses to a record, which is just one more way to search by lot number when customers call in and don’t provide full address or record numbers (that never happens in your jurisdiction…. right?)
Inspections: Happy Valley has chosen to auto-pend 26 inspections on their DWL records. To use less paper, inspectors send the inspection results via email.
Reports: Permit techs use an ad-hoc report to track assigned reviews and to ensure that all active reviews have been successfully assigned.
Customers: Contractors, owners, and even realtors love having the ability to look up records and permitting information on Citizen Access and Happy Valley doesn’t miss a chance to educate their users on navigating the ACA website.
Cristie Myron, Permit Technician: My favorite part of being on the OSM of ePermitting is the potential for collaboration between jurisdictions. We are always striving for better customer service within our department and jurisdiction and love to learn how others are providing quality customer service to their residence and customers. We always welcome new ideas and don’t mind sharing our operation standards, unless you’re going to tell us we’re doing it wrong! If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Cristie Myron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The highlighted pink points are an example of a Dynamic Theme displaying all scheduled inspections assigned to one of the Deschutes County inspectors for the day.
Deschutes County uses the Accela GIS (AGIS) interface to display their ArcGIS map within the Accela back office software. Recently, Tim Berg, Applications & Systems Analyst at Deschutes County, configured in AGIS what is known as Dynamic Themes, which is an Accela database query that is a visual display of the records plotted on the map. Tim configured a Dynamic Theme for each inspector that runs a query to find all inspections assigned to the inspector for the day and then highlights the property on the map. If you would like more information about how to create or use Dyanmic Themes, you may contact Tim Berg at Deschutes County at 541-330-4648. Great job, Deschutes County for taking advantage of this helpful Accela functionality!
Randy Scheid, Deschutes County Building Official, responded to a few questions regarding the use of Dynamic Themes:
Question: How has AGIS and Dynamic Themes helped with managing your inspections?
Randy: With the rapid population growth we are experiencing within Deschutes County, new subdivisions are being platted on a regular basis. This presents a challenge for building inspectors when new roads are created in unfamiliar areas. By leveraging AGIS and Dynamic Themes, we are able to use a map service to display the location of scheduled inspections using individual color-coded points for each inspection and subsequent building inspector. By using AGIS, we can immediately see which inspectors are assigned to each requested inspection on a daily basis.
Our inspections are assigned to inspectors using the auto-assignment toolset provided by Accela, using geographic inspection areas. Overlaying assigned inspections on a map with an inspection area layer, we can immediately see when an inspection is assigned to an inspector outside of their normal inspection area. This allows for a rapid visual assessment of the inspector/inspection assignment and the number of inspection stops for each inspector on a given day. When inspections are resulted, they are dynamically dropped from the map, which allows visual confirmation of the number of inspections that are scheduled on a given day.
Question: Has AGIS sped up the inspection assignment process?
Randy: AGIS has definitely increased the speed and efficiency of the inspection assignment process. For example, if one building inspector has more inspection stops in their inspection area than a neighboring building inspector, it becomes very easy to visually see, then reassign an inspection to the closest neighboring inspector. As a day progresses and inspections are resulted, we can always see which scheduled inspections are still un-resulted and can visually redistribute the workload to nearby inspectors. As our Assistant Building Official says, “They are not my inspections and your inspections, they are our inspections and the work is not done until all inspections are completed and resulted”.
Question: How did you manage inspections prior to Tim developing Dynamic Themes on the map?
Randy: Prior to implementing AGIS, we would copy and paste addresses that had scheduled inspections into google maps to determine where the address was located (this has been incorrect many times!). We would then reassign the inspection to the inspector assigned to that particular inspection area. This was a long and tedious process when we were unfamiliar with specific road names. Now, we are able to use our own map service which provides identical address and parcel data to what we are loading into Accela via our weekly Address, Parcel, Owner (APO) uploads. Having an efficient and accurate mechanism to display scheduled, but un-resulted inspections has allowed for much more proficient inspection management on a daily basis.
As a web based product, ePermitting is affected by your IT network settings. Jackson County’s IT staff recently discovered how much difference a change in network settings can make. Jackson County has been a part of the ePermitting System since June 2014. Their IT staff recently looked into performance issues that end users were facing in Accela/ePermitting. After spending time gathering data and reaching out to other agencies on the ePermitting System, Jackson County discovered some important details about their internal network and how it relates to Accela. The most significant was that they were encrypting internet traffic in both directions and it appeared that this was causing a significant performance hit (almost twice as long on most tasks) when using Accela. They revised the encryption method on their internal network and as a result, the performance has greatly improved for end users, making Accela respond much faster! Jackson County was kind enough to pass along this information to the ePermitting Team as well as allow us to share this information in the newsletter in an effort to collaborate across our large system of users. If you would like more information about the specific network settings that Jackson County made, you may contact Brady Smith at Jackson County at 541-774-6493. Props to Jackson County and their efforts that paid off!
We have highlighted all of the ePermitting Team in the monthly “In the Spotlight” article and would like to now use this as a way to showcase different success stories from agencies on the ePermitting System. Please contact us at ePermitsHelp.BCD@oregon.gov if you have a success story you would like to share!
Jerod Broadfoot joined the Building Codes Division in 2007. Before joining the epermitting team, Jerod served as BCD's eastern region coordinator. Since joining ePermitting in 2014 Jerod has served as our Outreach and Training Coordinator training inspectors, contractors, plans examiners, and many others on how to use the ePermitting system. From Medford to Pendleton and Astoria to Burns Jerod travels the entire state to help contractors and local jurisdictions learn and effectively utilize the epermitting system and all of its tools.
A native Oregonian, Jerod was born and raised in Hermiston where he graduated from Hermiston High School and then received his Bachelor's Degree from Willamette University in Salem. Jerod works and lives in Pendleton where he enjoys raising his three children with his wife Jenny, coaching baseball/softball, hunting, fishing and everything outdoors Oregon has to offer.
Stacey Thias joined the ePermitting team in December 2017 as a systems implementation analyst. She is currently helping to implement Wasco and Wheeler counties with their go-live dates of February 2018.
Before joining the ePermitting team, Stacey came from the Department of Consumer and Business Services’ Communications Section where she worked for more than 10 years, most recently as the agency’s web coordinator. She also worked on a variety of Web development projects and applications.
Stacey lives in Keizer with her husband and their two children. In her spare time, Stacey enjoys traveling and hiking, basically anywhere that involves sunshine.
Jeff joined the ePermitting team in January 2014 as an Implementation Specialist. He works primarily on technical projects like data conversions and scripting but also does new implementations when needed. Some of the data conversions Jeff has completed are Klamath County, Springfield, Florence, Milwaukie, West Linn and Cottage Grove. He’s currently working on the Coos Bay and Junction City conversions. Some of the new implementations Jeff has completed are Lincoln County, Curry County and Tillamook County. He’s currently working on implementing Pendleton and Wallowa County with go live dates of early 2018.
Jeff came to ePermitting from the Department of Consumer and Business Services Information Management Division where he supported the fiscal services division for several years and then supported the Building Codes Division prior to moving to ePermitting.
Jeff lives in Salem with his wife, teenage daughter, and two labradoodles. In his spare time Jeff likes to play tennis, hike and travel. His favorite travel destinations are Italy, Greece and Kauai and his favorite hike is the Kalalau Trail on Kauai.
Chrissie Deibel has been with ePermitting for almost 10 years. Her role supporting jurisdictions is training users to use the Ad Hoc Report writing tool, advanced money and finance, and report writing. Before joining the ePermitting team, she has had positions providing IT support to Building, Planning, Public Works, Fire, Code Enforcement, Business Licensing, Assessor, and Police/Sheriff departments for both City and County Governments in Washington and Florida. Over the years Chrissie has implemented 5 different permit and licensing systems that were used by multiple departments.
Chrissie has been with the ePermitting team almost since the beginning, she managed the initial project that enabled the ePermitting system to be created. She has written most of the standard reports available in ePermitting.
With 4 grown children, 6 grandchildren and a recently retired husband, Chrissie stays active and busy outside of work. She has 2 labradoodles that she loves to train and walk daily. She loves hiking, quilting and other art related projects.
Heidi Shamberger has been with the Building Codes Division since 2005 where she supported a variety of sections in the division before joining the ePermitting Program in 2009. Heidi assisted in the City of Springfield and Lane County custom implementations prior to the creation of the Oregon Standard Model.
You can usually find Heidi working on new enhancements for the ePermitting System, troubleshooting system issues that surface, and managing the different environments by coordinating with our Accela hosting team. Heidi also reports defects that are found in the software to Accela and manages those until a fix is put in place.
Heidi spends her free time refinishing broken-down vintage furniture and giving them new life, driving around Oregon looking for the next great kayaking spot, hiking, traveling the world, and cooking and eating good food with family and friends.
Shane O’Donnell joined the ePermitting team in November 2016. He assisted in implementing the City of La Grande, and is currently in the process of implementing the City of Junction City, and assisting in implementing Columbia County. Shane is also involved with the reports, assisting in the rewrite of the Building Permit, rewriting the Certificate of Satisfactory Completion, and the Structural Exemption reports most recently.
Prior to working for the State of Oregon, Shane spent 12 years working for a large bank. His last position was scripting reports for Fraud Policy, Compliance, and Strategy groups.
After living in Phoenix, AZ for 12 years, Shane now lives in Salem with his wife Dalia, two daughters Adeline (4) and Zinnia (1), and two dogs Chip and Chester. In his spare time he enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, and crabbin
Krista Allman joined the ePermitting team October 2016 and has had an opportunity to work with many of you that have called into the Help Desk. You may have also worked with Krista to update Employee profiles during our yearly User Profile Cleanup. Krista provides support to the team by working on some of the smaller projects like keeping the knowledgebase updated, working on various updates that need to be made to reports and Accela, and helps test new Accela versions and updates before they are ready for your agencies to test.
Prior to joining the ePermitting team, Krista worked for DMV for over 8 years in the Customer Services Group working very closely with their call center. In her last position, Krista ran the phone system server and the call center’s scheduling and reporting server to help with call center efficiencies.
Krista has a small family that welcomed a new little girl in January 2017! Krista, along with her husband, Adam, and oldest daughter, Alexia, have enjoyed watching Katrina grow these last 6 months and look forward to planning exciting adventures in the future.
Kelly Marshall has been with epermitting for 4 years this Fall as a Project Manager working with new jurisdictions coming on to the Oregon Standard Model. In support of the epermitting team and our agencies - she specializes in fees, advanced money/finance, application of building code/policy and building department business practice. She has been in construction services for 12 years and came to the Division after 8 years with the City of Salem Permit Services management team.
Kelly has managed several new implementations including Counties of Jackson, Klamath, and Lake; Cities of Veneta, Newberg, Newport, and Coburg; our BCD satellite offices in Umatilla and Coos Counties along with BCD Salem and Special Projects – and recently brought our very first custom agency on to the Model, City of Springfield. Springfield is our first agency to use all the available modules and first to go-live with our new Public Works module. Kelly partnered with Deyette Kelly, also on our team, to build the Public Works tracking module. Cities of Coos Bay and Pendleton are her next upcoming implementations.
With a 13-year-old teen athlete for a son, Kelly stays very busy outside of work and is a huge sports fan – local and professional. She has a passion for music and concerts, and loves outdoor summer activities including camping and the beach.
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