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County first to go online for e-permits

Statewide program

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Rena Thompson, administrative supervisor for the Jefferson County Community Development Department, and Chet Singleton, county building official, demonstrate the convenient new website for permits.

Persistence paid off for Jefferson County, which became the first county in the state to put its permitting process online on June 7.
   Under the program, contractors and homeowners can buy permits, submit plans and track their projects online.
   "To the public, it's going to make the process much easier," said Chet Singleton, Jefferson County building official. "It's going to allow them to do their permit application online, schedule inspections online, get reports online."
   "They can pay for things online, using the credit card application. We'll be able to receive plans in an electronic form," he said, adding that those who do not have the ability to send plans online can still drop by Community Development at 85 S.E. D St. to present their plans personally.
   Initially, the county wasn't among the group of 14 cities and counties selected by the state for the start-up programs. "We weren't included, but they said we could sit in," said Rena Thompson, administrative supervisor for the Community Development Department.
   Even though the county wasn't part of the group, representatives showed up for every training session and made sure that all paperwork was turned in on time.
   "We changed our business practices to fit whatever the program was," said Thompson. "Since we had all our paperwork in and were willing to work with them, they bumped us up to be the first county."
   While Jefferson County is the first county to go online, two cities from the program had already gone online -- Springfield and Lebanon -- so the system works.
   "I think once people get used to it, it will be popular," she said. "Realtors will be able to go on there if they have questions about the status of a permit. Planning decisions will be notated on there."
   For the past year and a half, Thompson said, a representative of the state building codes division has met with the county at least once a month.
   "The state's been great to work with," she said.
   There won't be any additional charge for the program, officials said, noting that those purchasing permits have been paying a 4 percent surcharge since 2008 to help fund the program.
   The website will also save time for county officials, who issue about 1,300 permits a year, but issued over 3,000 in 2005-06. Permits entered online will automatically be saved in the county's system.
   "It's going to help us in giving us an electronic way of tracking permits," said Singleton. "Everything has been pretty much a paper trail. It's a working system, but it takes a lot of time tracking things."
   With the online system, he said, "When our staff goes out to a job site, we can look up all the inspections that have been done previously on the project and make sure that nothing has been missed."
   For more information, call the county at 541-475-4462, or visit the website buildingpermits.oregon.gov; click on the e-permitting system and register, or log in.