Home improvement just got a lot easier for Northport residents, thanks to a major technology upgrade that village officials said is already shaving weeks and months off project approval time.
“It could have taken anywhere from six to eight weeks on a simple application for a fence,” village administrator Tim Brojer said. “Now, we’re striving to turn it around in a week.”
For more complex projects such as building a house, Brojer said applications that used to take six to eight months could be approved in as little as six to eight weeks.
The difference is that all building and fire code records that were on paper and filed at Village Hall have been digitized into a computer program that makes it easier to find old files and keep a project moving.
“This software is better record keeping,” Trustee Jerry Maline said. “It’s going to help the village, and it’s going to help the homeowner.”
The computer program cost $26,000, officials said.
Maline, who also is the village’s commissioner for technology, spearheaded the effort after hearing complaints from residents and business owners, as well as from contractors, plumbers and other professionals who make a living selling services that require village approval.
The message was clear: The old system was slow and inefficient, so much so that it was discouraging some people from pursuing even minor projects.
“There’s nothing worse for myself or one of my fellow trustees than to hear after the fact that, ‘I had this horrible experience, it took me a year to do this project,’ ” Maline said.
In Northport, all home improvement projects start with an application to the building department. The plans are reviewed, and officials tell applicants if they must pursue a variance from any of the village’s three review boards: zoning, planning, or historic and architectural. From there, the process often got bogged down.
Village employees had to dig through paper files on properties that, in some cases, dated back 100 years or more, officials said.
Now records for each of the village’s roughly 5,700 residences, as well as all commercial properties, are all in one place.
George Suddell, an architect and general contractor who lives in and runs his business in Northport, has had to go through the old system countless times, he said.
“The only frustration I’ve had with the village is the timeline,” he said of the approval process.
Suddell said he’s hopeful the new system will be good for his business.
“As an architect and a builder, we’re always trying to get plans processed and put out, because we’re always trying to work on a schedule,” he said. “Any time that can be expedited is a good thing.”
The village approved purchasing the software in February, and within a week the new system was up and running, Brojer said.
“Now everything is at your fingertips,” he said.
Northport application approvals
Typical wait time for an application to add a fence under old, paper system: 6-8 weeks
Typical time for a fence application to be approved under new computer system: one week
Approximate number of residential properties in Northport, all of which have their building history in the system: 5,700
Cost of the computer system: $26,000