SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott’s Building Department has finally moved to the internet.
Residents and contractors looking to build in the town can now access, and submit, any of the department’s permits online, according to Building Commissioner Max Kasper. At $18,000 a year, with a few initial upfront costs, the department moved its entire access database onto a software called Viewpoint.
“We save a tremendous amount of paper and eventually it will save everyone a lot of time,” said Kasper. “When I took the position, it was one of those things I identified as a need for the department. Having been a contractor myself and seeing how other communities offered permitting systems, I knew we were in the dark ages. It was time to modernize.”
Kasper became the acting commissioner in September 2017 and received the full title a year later, he said. The department had a soft launch with employees before it went completely live on Jan. 1.
People can now pay for their building permits and submit documents or blueprint plans online. Kasper said if someone is building an addition to a house, they can upload those plans along with the permit application.
“We are an incredibly busy department,” said Kasper. “This reduces our needs for data input and physical document filing so we can focus on more pressing and important issues, such as customer service, zoning issues, and plan reviews.”
The department is still getting used to the new system since it has always done things one way, he said. Once all the kinks are worked out and homeowners and contractors get used to the online system, Kasper said it will be a breeze.
Until then, inspections are still being handled in person, just as before, he said. Eventually, all building inspections will be managed through the online system but department employees need to finish implementing all of the town’s current projects into the new system.
“We still accept paper applications if there is no alternative,” he said. “Then we internally put that into the new system so everything is centralized.”
There is also a public terminal at the department’s office where homeowners or contractors can apply for permits by logging on and doing it right there, Kasper said. The town hopes to eventually bring other departments, such as the fire and health departments, into the online software.
“We have been working on this for the last year,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. “Max has done an absolutely terrific job. He’s a hard worker and a forward thinker and has identified a way to help Swampscott be more open 24/7 for residents and businesses in town.”