Letter: Overhaul Pittsfield permit process
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
You hear it constantly when you try to get work done in Pittsfield -- the contractor gets your signature, then tells you, a building permit will take five or six weeks. You ask why, since you are anxious to start the work and the contractor says "I don't know -- it takes a week in every other town in the county." Here is what you never hear: Permits take forever because I need to walk all over City Hall.
Maybe the offices in City Hall need to be swapped around. Maybe the floor plan needs to be more user friendly, but I am pretty certain there is a process issue which seems to delay things. The bottleneck is not in the location of the various offices you need to visit, but instead, the bottleneck lies within what goes on in those offices once the permit application is submitted. That is what needs fixing, and it probably won't cost $100,000.
And if the location was an issue, I would say, sure, move everyone together. Why not take over a piece of Mercer School? The city already owns it and I am sure some folks who have private spaces could be double-or quadruple-bunked with others using cubes. And the space doesn't need rehab, it can be used it as it is and save us the money. Why Mercer you ask? The magic reason -- parking.
Contractors need quick and easy access. City Hall at 7 or 7:30 a.m. is fairly convenient to park near before workers from the various businesses and City Hall itself arrive. 100 North St.? Never convenient except on Sunday afternoon. There are a few parking spaces nearby, all shared with several hundred customers or others using the buildings nearby. The five or six spaces in front of 1 Fenn St. are filled most of the day as folks cycle in and out of that building, and if you need a quick meeting before going off to a job, 100 Fenn St. is another several hundred feet further west than is City Hall from the lot on First and Fenn.
The City Council has been pretty hostile to the mayor (actually just a few of them), but on this one, I am afraid to say they got it right. If these offices need to be moved at all (and I doubt they do) then a city-owned building with parking is the only answer. Hey, how about the Morningside Fire station? Rather than give it away for $10, we can use it. Maybe the Taconic carpenters can renovate it.
But first, let's try some "process engineering." Maybe we can ask the other 20-plus towns that issue permits in a week what their secret is? Especially since it's a closed group of folks, some of whom have already worked for the city, maybe we can get some valuable advice from our neighbors.
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