County Comment: Permits and Inspections Deputy Director addresses national audience in web seminar

County Comment
Permits and Inspections Deputy Director addresses national audience in web seminar
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

Angela Smith, Deputy Director of the Washington County Office of Permits and Inspections addressed some 700 participants nationwide, in a web seminar sponsored by Mobile Market News (MMN), on Tuesday, June 6.
MMN is a monthly electronic newsletter reporting the latest news on wireless technologies and mobile data applications for state and local governments across the nation.
A free "Webinar" titled "The New Mobilized Workforce: Wireless Transformation of Citizen Services for the Digital Age" had 700 pre-registered listeners and several hundred additional persons were expected to register.
Smith made comments on the County's state-of-the-art wireless permitting and inspections system, "that has significantly enhanced their workforce productivity and customer service to their community," an MMN news release said.
The event was part of a chain of speaking engagements for P&I staff, following Accela Wireless, Inc.'s use of the County's record implementation of wireless technology for field inspectors as a test study.
Using Accela wireless technology and Panasonic Tough Book computers, inspectors' vehicles are outfitted with the latest wireless laptops, printers and software, and linked by Wi-Fi to the central office computer. Inspectors are able to work smarter by accessing project information and filing reports from the field, printing inspection reports for developers and delivering them on-site. Letting developers know immediately if projects passed or failed enables them to speed up any compliance that would have to be made before sign off on the final inspection.
Accela representatives were amazed when the Washington County team deployed the system in a week and a half. Permits and Inspections Director Dan DiVito has said that the speed of deployment was the reason for Accela awarding the County with its "Mobile Government-Leadership in implementing mobile government solutions" Award in 2005 at its national user convention.
Permits and Inspections Deputy Director Smith was invited to speak at the Digital Cities conference in Houston, Texas in March of this year. Also in that month, the County was used as a case study in a seminar hosted by Accela, Intel, Cisco Systems and Panasonic in Washington D.C. Smith spoke on "Becoming a Digital Community", at that event. Digital Cities sent a reporter to the County, and the result was a three-page story in its on-line Government Technology newsletter in April.
The program has saved the eleven inspectors at least seven hours per work each week. Accela will utilize the process as a case study titled "Building an Effective Mobile Inspection Team" at its next national users convention in August in San Diego, California, with Smith again an invited guest speaker.
One-time cost of the software, hardware and accessories was just over $112,000. Savings per week to Washington County: based on 7 person hours for 11 inspectors at a $15 per hour average wage is $1,153 per week. Savings in time reductions for project turnaround, reduced employee stress, departmental efficiency and customer satisfaction has improved as a result.