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Phoenix offers building permits online

House Layout Floorplan Blueprint Sketch Concept

Licensed contractors working in Phoenix can now submit building permit applications online. The new option went active this week, and submissions can be made through the state’s e-Permitting system.

“Since Monday we have jumped right into it. We are pushing everything toward that portal,” said Joe Slaughter, community and economic development director. One of the permit applications was for a home to replace an Almeda fire loss. Others have been for electrical and mechanical permits.

“It was all paper. This is a big step toward digital,” said Slaughter. The city could previously receive information via email but that needed to be put onto paper. Fees could also be paid electronically.

Building permit applications will be reviewed by the city staff as the come in. Planning applications can also be submitted through the state system and will be tracked separately, but an in-person consultation will be required, said Slaughter. The system will give applicants the ability to check on the status of their planning applications.

Basic trades permits that cover such things as electrical, plumbing, mechanical and structural work will go 100% through the e-permit system without any contact with the city staff. The city will receive notifications when those permits are issued. Inspections can also be scheduled through the state site, which is at BuildingPermits.Oregon.gov or through a link on the city’s website under Community & Economic Development.

Contractors are positive about having the e-permit system, and many had been asking why the city wasn’t already using the system, said Slaughter. The city will still take paper from a few contractors who are not yet using computers, but the industry has mostly shifted, he said.

The system comes from the state at no cost to the city. The state increased building fees on permits in the past to allow for its creation. To fund purchase of larger monitors and other related equipment that is needed, a 1% fee was added by the city to the cost of a permit.

Another system operated by the city’s building inspection partner, Northwest Code Professionals, has tracked permits issued since 2017. That has assisted the city in getting those permits registered into its system.

“Migrating (information) to that new one wasn’t seamless. There’s a lot of checking and filling in record sheets,” said Slaughter. “We have been working on this since June, so it has been seven months of getting all of the permit information.”

Slaughter, Planning Manager Zac Moody, building planning aide Lori Clark and two Southern Oregon University student interns have been working on the process. Money from a state fire assistance fund for municipalities allowed the SOU students to be hired after they completed their internships.

Eventually, all planning and building documents the city holds will be in a digital format, but that’s a long-term effort, said Slaughter.

Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 32 offer the online service. Out of 241 incorporated municipalities in Oregon, 44 offer some form of the online applications. Participation is voluntary. Slaughter said the long lead-in time needed to prepare for use of the state offering may slow other jurisdictions in adopting it.

The Jackson County Planning Department offers contractors the ability to apply online for both building permits and to submit planning applications and get basic trades permits through e-Permitting. Central Point and Talent can receive applications for building permits and basic trade permits through the system. In Ashland and Medford, basic trades permits can also be obtained online.

“The e-Permitting thing right now is taking more time … but we understand this is the way it is going to be. We will get used to it over time,” said Brad Bennington, executive officer with the Builders Association Southern Oregon.

E-permitting has the opportunity to leverage more time for a jurisdiction’s professional building staffs to do other things, which may allow them to better serve the public, Bennington said.

In other news about city information offered digitally to the public, Phoenix City Council awarded a three-year contract to Project A Software of Ashland to upgrade and host the city’s website.

“We had it in part of our strategic planning process. It has been at least five years since the last update,” said City Manager Eric Swanson. Various pages have been updated over the years. A recent one allows tracking on a map of structures destroyed by the Almeda fire and their status toward rebuilding.

The new site will have more capability to allow for uses on phones. There will also be more types of searches available, Swanson said.

Also, HMK Company, which has been selected as construction manager/general contractor to oversee creation of the new city Government and Public Safety Building, will establish a website to allow the public to stay updated on the project, said Swanson.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.