Northwest NEWS

April 30, 2001

Features

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Now you can apply for a building permit in your bathrobe


   by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   It's spring and the idea of outdoor dining on a beautiful new deck appeals to you. And since you don't have a deck, you decide to build one.
   You draw up plans for a gorgeous bi-level deck and add lattice screens for flowering vines. You can practically feel the peaceful tranquility of basking in the summer sun on the new deck.
   But wait, you'll need to apply for a building permit first. In the past, this could involve a car trip to Woodinville City Hall and, once there, include a search for the right department that handles permits for building decks.
   Not anymore. E-government is here. Now, if you need a permit, you can download the form right in your own home and fill it out while still wearing your bathrobe.
   But you'll still need to send it to the city for approval. In the near future, though, you'll be able to actually apply on-line.
   "What we're going to offer next is applying for permits online," said Assistant to the City Manager Deborah Knight. This will probably occur next year, she said. Citizens will fill out the form and pay the fee with one click of the mouse.
   "What we're really hoping to focus on next year are simple permitting processes," said Knight who added, "Our goal is to provide the service by the function. You should be able to go online and say 'I need permits' and go to permits."
   She explained, "People get discouraged from trying to figure out what department does what and who handles it. The idea of e-government is, 'let's not talk about who, let's talk about what.' Such as, 'I need a permit.'"
   More electronic opportunities are on the horizon. Up ahead is the day people will apply for business registration or register for Parks and Recreation classes online, and at the same time pay the appropriate fees.
   Knight said that government service via the personal computer and the Internet is more efficient as it saves citizens time and eliminates a trip to City Hall.
   Though applying for permits is not yet available, the online service will be open 24 hours a day, seven day a week.
   However, downloading permit applications is currently accessible at the city's Web site.
   The Woodinville City Council is still deciding what online services to provide and making certain that security issues are in place for a safe framework in handling financial transactions.
   Once these applications are up and running, the e-government possibilities can take off. For example, citizens could be notified by e-mail of City meetings or certain actions taking place within the city. Also the day is coming when citizens can log on for the City Council agenda.
   Knight added, "In five years, you should be able to attend the City Council meetings online."
   Last October, the city contracted with a company called Windsor Solutions for assistance in prioritizing what on-line services should be offered. The company helped the city to develop an e-government strategy and define what the citizens wanted.
   Also recommending services that are best suited online is a Citizen Advisory Panel made up of a cross-section of about six members of the community including a resident, a developer, a banker and a librarian.
   Anyone who has an idea for a service the city might provide online that hasn't been mentioned, should contact Deborah Knight at (425) 489-2700.
   The city of Woodinville Web site can be found at www.ci.woodinville.wa.us.