Disclaimer: What’s below is my interpretation of the meeting and not an official communication from the RTM. You can view the meeting in its entirety here and read the related WestportNow.com article here.
At its meeting on July 10, 2018, the RTM did the following:
- Appropriated $350,000 for the purchase of land use permitting software, and
- Appointed four individuals as trustees of the Westport Public Library.
AGENDA ITEM #1: The appropriation of $350,000 for the purchase of land use permitting software
Sara Harris, the town’s Operations Director, said that that the town began investigating unified land use permitting software platforms last fall based on the strong recommendation of our outside auditor (Blum Shapiro). The unified software platform would make the permitting process more efficient and improve the land use “customer” experience in numerous ways, including the following:
- Permit turnaround time should improve because the land use departments would be able to review applications concurrently rather than through the “current existing silo workflow”;
- As opposed to the existing, paper-based process, the permit process using the new platform would be “automated and integrated with hardware and software” and cloud-based;
- Residents and builders could login to the platform, submit an application, and be guided through requirements based on the type of work they want to do, the location of their property, and the pertinent state and local regulations; and
- The software platform would eliminate “black hole anxiety.” Users could check on the progress of their applications anytime and anywhere that they have internet access.
In response to a question by RTM member Peter Gold, Ms. Harris said that the town hasn’t decided whether to give residents online access to information regarding whether other entities or residents have obtained permits for certain land use related activities. This is a capability that the town could add on. If the town chooses to do so, residents would be able to view permits obtained after the software is implemented but not older permits.
According to Ms. Harris, the unified land use software is a “first step towards using technology to show that the town is in support of continued improvements to our properties in town.” First Selectman Jim Marpe added that the software could help keep the grand list growing by making “people feel like the town cares about what they want to accomplish on the commercial and residential side.”
With respect to the vendor selection process, Ms. Harris explained that after submitting a formal Request for Proposal (“RFP”) and analyzing the options, her team strongly preferred the proposal from Accela/zedIT because:
- Accela is an industry expert in licensing, permitting, and regulatory solutions. States and major cities in America and across the world use Accela for land use permitting, and Accela systems have been installed in over 2,000 locations around the world;
- Accela was the only vendor that could tailor its platform to include all 365 features that Westport requested (but did not require) in the RFP;
- Accela is “a 21st Century company” with new products coming out in the short term such as solar permitting, complaint response management, and innovative data management modules that the town could consider adding on in the future;
- ZedIT, Accela’s preferred implementation partner, has completed over 800 installation projects, including many in the Northeast. All of zedIT’s references were glowing; and
- Despite being superior to the other proposals in all areas, the cost of the Accela/zedIT proposal was at the mid-point of those submitted by the other bidders.
Going forward, the Acela platform will cost the town around $65,000 per year. This amount consists of the $105,000 subscription fee offset by the subscription fee for the town’s current software.
Ms. Harris explained that it’s possible the town could realize savings related to workforce reduction, but that remains to be seen.
The RTM voted unanimously to approve the appropriation. The land use departments should begin processing applications on the new platform by April 2019.
AGENDA ITEM #2: The appointment four individuals as trustees of the Westport Public Library
RTM member Brandi Briggs explained that the RTM chooses half of the voting trustees of the Westport Public Library (“WPL”) because “the library gets funding from the town.” Pursuant to Section 34 of the Westport Town Charter, The RTM appoints 50% and up to 10 of the voting trustees of the Westport Public Library. The other 50% are appointed by the WPL trustees.
Ms. Briggs said that her committee voted unanimously to recommend that the RTM reappoint Jonathan Cunitz and appoint Jeremy Price, Scott Bennewitz, and Sivan Nemovicher Hong. She didn’t provide any background information regarding these individuals – which seemed odd given that the meeting packet didn’t include any background information on the candidates either. You can read what I was able to find out regarding these individuals in my agenda summary here. According to Ms. Briggs, the candidates were selected for their strategic planning, marketing, and fundraising skills.
The RTM voted unanimously to reappoint Jonathan Cunitz and appoint Jeremy Price, Scott Bennewitz, and Sivan Nemovicher Hong as WPL trustees.
Disclaimer: What’s above is my interpretation of the meeting and not an official communication from the RTM. You can view the meeting in its entirety here.