In early 2018, officials in Manatee County, Florida transformed its property inspection processes with the help of Accela’s planning and permitting solutions to automate and streamline over 3,500 inspections a week. That investment has paid off in unexpected ways lately, as the county has ramped up to confront the current global health crisis that has now infiltrated its communities.
At 741 square miles and home to approximately 400,000 citizens, the county had been experiencing vigorous building and development activity, with the sheer volume of property inspections and citizen requests straining the capacity of its old manual processes. Local leaders adapted to the increased workload by leveraging Accela to reduce paper processes, modernize back-end options, and open up new avenues of information-sharing across county offices.
As the impact of COVID-19 spread, the county’s efforts to automate services helped them navigate the new demands of “social isolation” mandates and keep operations running as normally as possible, even with agency staff no longer physically at their desks.
“When the shelter in place orders came in, we gave the team two hours to pack up and work from home,” said John Barnott, Director, Building and Development Services at Manatee County Government. “They were shocked and scared, of course. But when they got home, they found they could do everything they needed to, because with Accela everything was already online.”
Technology enabling service delivery
With Accela’s solutions, Manatee County is well equipped to continue to serve its citizens during this extraordinary time. Citizens are able to pay the county and submit plans online, and plan reviewers are also able to conduct their work virtually to keep essential processes moving forward.
To help minimize disruptions in the current environment, Building and Development Services leadership has supported its team with a shared online toolbox and SharePoint site that is updated daily. Leadership sends out weekly communications and has issued a Business Services Support Process for those who need assistance while working remotely.
With its paperless processes established, Manatee can ensure key documents land directly in the hands of county personnel.
“Other jurisdictions are literally putting cardboard boxes outside buildings to collect paper plans. That’s both unwieldly and unreliable. With Accela Building and Planning solutions, we are better able to track documents, and we can still be very efficient with our reviews, even in the current circumstance,” Barnott said, noting that Accela’s broad-based offerings have enabled Manatee County to not only cope but actually thrive in the midst of the new work-from-home paradigm.
A proven partnership
Even before COVID-19, Manatee County had found significant value in Accela’s tools to drive efficiency, fortify resilience, and enable building and development services to continue, delivering on its mission despite adversity.
The county had initially adopted Accela to move to the cloud, dramatically accelerate operations, and create new lines of collaboration. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, officials say they have discovered just how powerful those capabilities can be in the face of unexpected workflow disruptions. The county was not only able to maintain business continuity but has actually processed more permits in a single month than ever before, even in the midst of the shelter-in-place order.
“None of us ever expected to go through something like that,” Barnott said. “We had 3,097 permits applied for in March — that’s the most in our history. Accela enabled us to meet that challenge without skipping a beat.”
To help agencies across the country respond to COVID-19, Accela recently created a suite of COVID-19 Response Solutions to help keep operations running and citizens safe and healthy during the aggressively growing crisis. These solutions were developed in response to increasing customer demand for digital tools to tackle some of the most critical challenges of the pandemic, and include support for online citizen services, mobile capabilities for agency staff, virtual inspections, and more.
To learn more about how other Accela customers are protecting their communities amidst COVID-19, read Accela’s recent blog post here. To speak with product experts about solutions that can get set up quickly online and enable remote staff to deliver services, contact Accela here.