How Modern Tech Systems Eased a Community's Disaster Recovery
June 03, 2019 by
In the aftermath of catastrophic Hurricane Irma, the residents of Marco Island sought to rebuild. While good spirit and energy helped a community recover, government workloads dramatically increased without additional staff support.
“Our permit volume more than doubled for over a year,” recalled Customer Service Supervisor Lisa Lee Loewer. “Our customer service communications doubled. We couldn’t have imagined taking in over 11,000 permits in a year. Our standard was around 5,000.”
Fortunately, the barrier island city had the modern technology in place to efficiently recover from tragedy.
Prior to the Hurricane, Marco Island implemented a new permitting software system. The legacy system had been heavily paper-dependent and was not keeping up with demands. “[It] had no graphic component or online component,” Loewer said. “Our permit and property files had to be outsourced for scanning and were being stored in a third-party software. There was paper everywhere. We were spending entirely too much time walking from desk to desk looking for plans, and the idea of simultaneous plan reviews loomed large.”
Loewer and her colleagues implemented technology that streamlined operations through digital record keeping, online permitting, and digital plan review. By simply eliminating the need to scan all documents, Loewer estimated the city saved nearly $100,000. “We were outsourcing and then we were using temp services in house for scanning as well,” she noted. “That was quite an expense.” The new system also improved transparency and made interactions with customers easier.
Alleviating pain points ended up being an unintentional critical component of Marco Island’s disaster recovery efforts.
With the digital permitting and plan review process in place and the added benefit of an online portal, residents were spared the burden of manually submitting paper for plans and permits during the rebuilding process. “We anticipated that if we had not been digital, we would have been standing room only. We would have had people taking a number and coming back the next day,” Loewer said.
Everyone benefitted from streamlined workflows, improved communication, and increased productivity, particularly under stressful conditions. With all critical processes connected – from planning, permitting, and licensing to asset management and citizen requests – city staff handled the increased workload and citizens got up and building faster.
Marco Island is continuing to improve customer self-service, most recently by enabling online payments on the public portal. Because the portal integrates with the city’s ERP software, that payment data will transfer directly and automatically into the ERP system.
Another upcoming development is in the area of inspections. Using the permitting solution’s GIS functionality, the city will be able to reduce work times associated with inspection scheduling by using GIS to map inspection zones.