11/23/08 — Builders, homeowners can now locate inspections results from county online

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Builders, homeowners can now locate inspections results from county online

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 23, 2008 2:00 AM

For the past few weeks Wayne County inspectors have been using laptop computers to travel the information highway -- virtual travel that county officials hope will supplant the more traditional and costly road miles.

And county officials hope the new cyber-commuting will increase the county's efficiency -- and its bank balance.

It used to be that a typical morning routine for county inspectors included driving into the office, gathering their paperwork and inspection assignments for the day before heading out for work. Later, once their inspections were completed, they would drive back into the office to enter the data into the computer.

Now all of that can be done on the laptops while at an inspection site.

The addition of the laptops is one of several cost-cutting moves the county has undertaken since August.

The computers, which cost less than $20,000, County Manager Lee Smith said, tie into the four-day workweek in effect for most county offices since August.

The computers free inspectors from having to spend so much time in the office entering information on the computer, said Steven Stroud, director of the Wayne County Inspection Department.

"They can do it out on the job site now," he said. "In fact, from their home when they are sitting at the kitchen table drinking their cup of coffee, they can pick up their computer and see what is on their schedule for today.

"When they leave their house they can go by their jobs sites on their way to the office. They can go ahead and do two or three inspections and enter them into the computer. It goes right into our Web site. Sitting there in our truck on the job site is just like sitting at our desk with our computers."

Employees can even look up information from the county environmental health and planning departments remotely.

"We can check development or environmental health permits for septic tanks approval before we issue our permit," he said. "State law requires that all of that be done before they can get a building permit."

But it's not just easier for inspectors, the new system also benefits builders.

"The contractor can check the status of his permit or his inspections from that day when it happens. If he needs some corrections made, he can go ahead and get up with somebody. If it passes inspection he can schedule somebody to go to the next phase that day instead of having to wait to go out to the job site or sending somebody out to the job site to check the inspection box or trying to call the inspector," Stroud said. "It's going to benefit everybody including homeowners. Homeowners who have access to a computer can do the same thing. They don't know what is going on until they get off work. If they are sitting in an office, they can pull up the Web site to see how the inspection went."

And while inspectors do still leave hard copies at the job sites, the Web site to check an inspection is www.waynegov.com. Once there, look under Departments (I-Z,) click on the inspection department and follow the links. The information is available by permit number or address.

The goal, Stroud explained is to save time and money for everyone involved.

"It is saving us the time also of having to come back into the office and entering everything into the computer," he said. "It will take time to get used to it and for contractors to get used to doing business like this.

"(But) I think once everybody gets into it will be much simpler, will save time and actually save on gas. Eventually we are going to see savings for the county and contractors."

And, Smith said, he would much prefer the county's builders spent their time building, not sitting idle.

"We want them building more," he said.