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Wooster, OH cuts permitting time while improving quality with virtual inspections

City of Wooster

Wooster, OH

Hearing that both developers and residents wanted licensing, permitting and inspection, services delivered more quickly and conveniently, Wooster, OH decided to transform its processes to increase efficiency and value. Using a new software system, the city was able to reduce plan review turnaround by seven days.

Topics Covered

Buildings
Customer Service
Permitting
Payment
Process Improvement

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2022

Gov Champion

Chief Building Official

Problem Addressed

The City of Wooster wanted to create greater efficiency and reduce turnaround time by moving permitting and licensing services online.

In the present climate, customers are wanting more, on a faster timeline and delivered in the most convenient way possible.

This is the feedback that the city of Wooster, OH (pop. 26K) received from its residents in regard to its permitting and licensing services.

The city was limited by its current processes, with plan approval performed by signing plans on a wall, and a lack of clear communication between the various departments involved in the many approval stages. With these time-consuming processes in mind, the city looked to create greater efficiency and reduce turnaround time by moving services online.

With a move to virtual permitting amidst COVID, the city discovered that many inspection types did not need to be in-person to be effective, and in fact the building inspectors could spend more time checking the code if they didn't have to be on the road all day. They moved to make permanent some virtual inspections and improved the process overall with digital workflows that kept the applications moving through the process.

The software enabled Wooster's teams to move beyond the start-and-stop nature of permitting, where the application would sit on someone's desk or desktop before it could be moved to the next stage. By creating digital decision rules that enabled multiple steps to be done as part of a single stage in the review, the Wooster building services department could keep applications moving forward even when someone was out of the office.

Another important attribute of digital permitting is the ability for anyone -- including the applicant -- to see where an application was in the process and see what more is needed to complete the permit. This functionality raises the accountability on all sides for timely and efficient (and quality) inspections and permitting.

Solutions Used

Wooster implemented new citizen services software that made permitting and licensing processes more efficient and reduced turnaround times.

The city’s planning and licensing departments found OpenGov’s cloud-based Citizen Services software to be the efficiency driver they needed to meet the needs and expectations of their constituents.

As part of the permit and licensing process, Wooster’s departments regularly moved through three different stages of work: Application Approval, Project Code Compliance, and Inspection Compliance. Before, plan approval was performed disjointedly with paper plans. OpenGov unified Wooster’s departments by sending everyone involved an email to review when plans are submitted. Making project code compliance easier, the OpenGov integration shows all of the various steps required for approval alongside the plans, with the department employees attached. Inspections were made more convenient through virtual inspections facilitated through the OpenGov software.

“OpenGov has really improved our review process and increased communication with each other,” said Andrew Dutton, Planning and Zoning Manager.

Outcomes

1

Seven day reduction in plan review turnaround

2

25% efficiency gain across all tasks

3

Addressed customer feedback by improving service delivery

4

Acceleration in inspection request turnaround

5

Increased communication and collaboration across departments, saving staff hours that can be used to perform other important tasks

Who Should Consider

Towns, cities, or counties looking to revamp processes to meet increased customer service expectations from residents

Last Updated

Mar 25th, 2022

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