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About the size of the State of Delaware, Palm Beach County is the largest county by landmass in the State of Florida. The county’s Land Development Division is responsible throughout the unincorporated areas of the county for issuing permits for road construction of the county’s more than 3,000 roads, utility work, landscaping, irrigation and onsite drainage reviews of commercial, industrial, and some residential facilities.
To manage the vast amounts of paperwork required for these processes, the county implemented an electronic permitting (ePermitting) system, which incorporates Oracle’s AutoVue 2D Professional visualization solution as an essential component. The county’s ePermitting system has succeeded in providing structure for the Land Development review and approval process, decreasing review time, and giving customers around-the-clock ability to submit and track applications and plans, all the while improving accountability.
To grant an average of 600 permits each year, the Land Development Division must process a vast quantity of paperwork, including detailed engineering plans. Previously, developers submitted permit requests and associated plans and documentation on paper, and county staff then circulated these documents for review and approval via interoffice mail among various teams within the engineering department. Oracle’s AutoVue solution has been instrumental in automating this review process.
Today, more than half of permit applications come in online. Even for developers who still submit applications on paper, the county scans the paperwork and plans into the ePermitting system. This means that county employees can rapidly distribute the information needed to process permits faster, developers can quickly check the status of permit requests online, around-the-clock, as well as view engineers’ comments and redlined plans that have been added with AutoVue, and resubmit amended plans.
The county’s ability to analyze resubmitted plans has dramatically improved thanks to AutoVue’s compare capability, which allows the user to view any changes that have been made from the original file to subsequent resubmittals. This saves time and quickly catches accidental or intentional changes beyond what was requested.
“Previously, we would receive permit requests and plans in paper form. As the next step, they would be circulated via interoffice mail, which could add a day or two at various stops. The documents might then have to go to another department just to be cross-referenced, for example, with an existing road project. The process was cumbersome and led to delays,” said Laura Yonkers, permit section supervisor, Palm Beach County.
“With the ePermitting portal and AutoVue, everything is completely electronic. Vital information is now instantaneously available for users to see, and workflows are streamlined and efficient,” said Charles Lemon, agency consultant to Engineering Department, Information Systems Services, Palm Beach County.
Developers can also download final plans from the system, once approved, and pay their permit fees online. Additionally, approved plans are electronically watermarked with approval signatures.
At a recent meeting, representatives from companies who had used the legacy process as well as the automated system agreed that the electronic process is faster.
“With the help of AutoVue, we have accelerated permit processing which is a valuable benefit to construction developers, especially in a sluggish economy, because it means they can get projects started faster,” Yonkers said.
The ePermitting system also provides 24/7 detailed status information which is useful for the public, the developers submitting applications, and internal staff.
The public can access the system to see what permits have been requested in their communities. Internal users can see when a permit has been distributed to the appropriate staff member for processing and where it is as it moves along that process. And, developers can see their own applications, and where they stand in the process.
“Transparency has significantly increased, which has eliminated many of the status calls we used to deal with constantly,” Yonkers said.
The ePermitting system with AutoVue has improved efficiency throughout the permitting process by 25%. This improvement is particularly important during a time of government budget constraints, when departments seek new ways to optimize staff productivity. Oracle’s AutoVue system has allowed the various agencies within the county to simultaneously review documents, digitally comment on and markup plans, as well as compare resubmitted plans, all of which has helped to standardize and streamline workflows for permit reviewers. This has led the county to realize increased efficiency and accuracy in their ePermitting processes.
AutoVue has also helped the Land Development Division to significantly reduce staff hours spent circulating and processing paper applications and documents. The collaboration tools available in AutoVue enable users to work on applications simultaneously, which has also contributed to faster application review times, while ensuring version controls are in place.
The ePermitting system additionally helps the county avoid conflicts within the permitting process. Often reviewers are unaware of other applications from different divisions that may conflict with the application they are working on. To prevent such conflicts, the county integrated geographic information system (GIS) capabilities with its ePermitting solution to enable a reviewer to map applications and ongoing projects to see if any permit requests conflict. It selected Oracle Spatial to deliver the advanced spatial features needed to support its GIS capabilities. After finding a conflict, users can then leverage AutoVue to examine documents associated with those permits and further investigate issues and inconsistencies
“With GIS and Oracle Spatial, we have been able to map projects in layers so that we can see conflicts between divisions before they arise. Then we can get the work coordinated between the divisions and the developers to avoid conflicts and delays,” Yonkers said.
Palm Beach County, a long-term Oracle customer with its use of numerous Oracle-based applications, chose Oracle’s AutoVue 2D Professional because of its rich functionality and collaboration tools, as well as its ability to work well with the county’s existing systems. For example, it supports multiple document types, which is important to the county since developers submit plans in various formats—from computer-aided design files. to Microsoft Word or Excel documents, to portable document format files (PDFs).
“What really stood out for Oracle’s AutoVue was the ability to integrate it seamlessly into our environment so that users do not even know they are using it,” said Paul Murphy, system designer, Information Systems Services, Palm Beach County.
Palm Beach County selected Oracle’s AutoVue 2D Professional after a six-month review of various software offerings. The county completed the implementation in-house and went live in June 2007. Since then, numerous other Engineering Department legacy systems have been integrated with Oracle’s AutoVue 2D Professional, greatly expanding the initial concept and use of the solution.
Advice from Palm Beach County