Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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RTM Approves $350,000 for Land Use Software

It seems pretty obvious, but in several decades at Town Hall an integrated electronic permit software system has repeatedly eluded the technology gurus.

That seems about to change with unanimous approval tonight by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) of a $350,000 appropriation for townwide land use permitting software.

The cloud-based system is designed to improve efficiencies and permit turnaround times and, if authorized, allow residents to electronically follow the progress of their applications.

According to Sarah Harris, town operations director who made the request, the software would be provided by Acella, a worldwide government software company, and it will be implemented by zedIT,
Harris said the software is expected to be in place by April.

It will be used by all town agencies requiring land use permits, First Selectman Jim Marpe said, including the Planning and Zoning Department, Conservation Department, Building Department, Public Works, and the Westport Weston Health District.

“This is the opportunity to knock down natural silos that exist and to integrate something at is very important to our town,” Marpe said. “This is an important step in making efficiencies happen.”

Harris said that the software would make departments more efficient, “taking a paper-based process and bringing it to integration with hardware and software.”

“It will improve turnaround times, and it will eliminate black hole anxiety, submitting an application and not knowing where it is,” Harris said.

“It will take the whole process and make it more transparent,” she said.

Efforts to implement a truly integrated electronic permitting system across all Westport departments go back at least to the late 1990s, according to those involved.

But despite costly purchases and software upgrades, the town was never able to achieve a truly integrated system. There is hope that the efforts might finally pay off.

—James Lomuscio with additional reporting by Gordon Joseloff

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