Baltimore County, Maryland, Centralizes Information and Offers Citizens Access to Services Online
County uses Land Management solutions on the Accela Civic Platform to automate civic processes for code enforcement, increase workforce efficiency and offer citizens access to services online
Located in the heart of Maryland, Baltimore County is a vibrant and diverse community. Home to historic neighborhoods and over 200 miles of waterfront along the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore County boasts a growing population of more than 800,000 residents.
The County’s IT department supports all of the 24 government agencies (including police, fire, public works, inspections, planning, finance, HR, health and human services and corrections) and about 300 applications. Finding answers to constituent questions was a challenge because none of the information was centralized and it created siloes across the agency. According to the Director of the Office of Information Technology, Rob Stradling, “When you’re trying to answer constituent questions and you have to go and look in 14 different places, that’s not very customer-friendly.” Rob was looking for something that could drive efficiencies and bridge departmental roadblocks.
As the economy began to improve, Baltimore County saw the need for a greater code enforcement presence in the field. At the time, their process was paper-laden and cumbersome. Code Enforcement Officers had to come into the office to get their daily schedule and were spending hours writing up paper reports and then returning to the office to input the information or handing it to another employee for data entry. The reports were delayed and there was an increased risk for mistakes when entering the data due to human error or illegible handwriting. Oftentimes inspectors spent an extra hour to an hour and a half at the end of the day printing and cutting out photos and collating them into the proper order. Then they printed and filed the reports.
Lionel van Dommelen, Chief of Code Enforcement for Baltimore County, oversees the Bureau of Code Inspections and Enforcement, with over 30 inspectors in the field every day. According to Lionel, “We’ve had to battle issues with filing over the years where we’ve had to create space, more space and more space.”
Baltimore County selected Accela Land Management solutions on the Accela Civic Platform. The flexibility of the Civic Platform would help the agency centralize information and provide the foundation for other solutions like building permitting, asset management and licensing without having to invest in additional software with separate implementation schedules. An added benefit was the ability to consolidate and sunset some older applications.
From the inspection and code enforcement perspective, officers are now able to get new complaints and new cases in real time. They no longer have to wait until they get into the office to get new caseloads. The cases are uploaded automatically in real time, just as the information they find and document in the field is uploaded and sent back to the County in real time.
With Citizen Access, the citizens of Baltimore County have an easy way to track key civic processes, from permits and applications to violations and code enforcement actions in their neighborhoods. Anyone can go online and see the information regarding a given complaint, including correction notices and citations. And with the real-time updates, constituents receive an automated email describing the action, next steps or changes in status and include photos of violations for additional background.
According to Lionel, Accela Land Management “has virtually eliminated the requirement for the paper files,” and “the efficiencies are enabling us to have inspectors on the street more time in a day than they normally would be, probably to the tune of about two hours more a day in the field.” With Accela and remote printing capabilities, the information is at the inspectors’ fingertips. They complete all of their work in the field and “it saves us probably two days a week for the sweep inspectors,” shared Lionel. The County also benefits from savings on fuel and mileage, and Lionel projected that the new process will save his department about $40,000 a year alone in printing costs.
The Accela solutions have reduced call volume significantly while bridging departmental silos. Rob shared that “it has helped with the constituent services area so now constituents can self-service and be able to see the process—but also, now our folks can see our constituent services and our code enforcement people can see exactly where everything is at, and that has been the big benefit. Seeing the information.”