New budget funds electronic plan review for all PDS projects

Submitting a plat, a site plan, or building plans to PDS for review and approval? You won’t need to hit the PRINT button on your CAD system to create the hard copies for submission. The agency’s FY17 budget includes funds for transitioning its staff to electronic plan reviews and away from paper. Full implementation of the new process is expected by next June.

“We took our first step in this direction two years ago when we purchased development-tracking software,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Virtually everything we do now as an agency—planning, engineering, building review, and code enforcement—is stored in TRAKiT. And, because our GIS provides the supporting foundation for the entire tracking system, all records are tied to the parcels on which the activity takes place.”

The TRAKiT system employed by PDS has made accessing records and tying those records to individual parcels significantly less time-consuming, according to Gordon. The one exception to this new process is the time it takes staff to scan paper images into the electronic system, and of course the time it takes then to handle the resulting paper.

“Handling plans in electronic format is going to improve the workflow in several ways,” Gordon suggested. “Staff will be able to receive plans, applications, and payments via email using PayPal. Those same time savers will apply to customers who won’t need to drive to our office any longer. They won’t have to buy paper and print plans—some that look more like small logs than anything else—and we won’t have to scan and eventually dispose of them.”

One of the great benefits of TRAKiT’s all-electronic format is that inspectors can access all relevant records and plans in the field using their iPads and the internet. Being able to review original plans rather than scanned versions of those plans will only improve this ability.

Gordon said that builders in particular have wanted to be able to submit plans electronically for some time. The technology to do that has existed for quite a while. But, he suggests, electronic plan review needed to be part of an overall strategy for improving workflow for PDS customers and staff—and that took time.

“We’re happy to be able finally to meet our customers’ requests,” Gordon said. “PDS is a service organization. Even though our customers don’t have the ability to go to a competitor for the services we provide, we try to operate in a manner as though they do.”

Transitioning to electronic plan review will begin sometime in the fall, once software and hardware are purchased. As staff are trained on the software, they will eventually move away from paper plans toward CAD drawings on their computer screens.

“We intend to pursue this transition in a slow and easy manner,” concluded Gordon. “We’ll all have things to learn, customers and staff alike. We want this to go as smoothly as possible.”

PDS will continue to accept plans on paper for the foreseeable future.