Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his office in Hauppauge....

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in his office in Hauppauge. (April 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Suffolk County's construction permitting process has gone virtual, replacing a paper permitting system long plagued by delays.

The new online application system, unveiled Thursday, is expected to cut wait times for permits from the county's health and public works departments to two to four weeks, compared with the current average of four to six weeks, according to a timeline by the county.

County Executive Steve Bellone said a revamp of the outdated paper system -- where county workers tracked applications on index cards -- is a major priority for the administration following complaints from business leaders about the slow-moving process.

"This is about economic development -- making sure we move projects forward so that we can create jobs," Bellone said at a news conference in Hauppauge.

Current applications that were submitted in paper format before the online switch have been converted to the digital system, Bellone said.

The web-based system also cuts down on delays caused by incomplete applications by preventing submissions with missing information.

Mitchell H. Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, said he hopes the online system will benefit home builders who often waited several months to get approval for septic systems and sewer hookups.

"In the residential home building industry time is money," Pally said. "We have lots of people who want to get into new homes in Suffolk County."

Bellone said he envisions the online system as the first step in streamlining a process that also requires contractors to get permits at the town level. He said he met recently with town building inspectors, and has reached out to town supervisors through the Suffolk County Supervisors Association to discuss ways to make the process more efficient.

"The reality is that towns and the county control various parts of the economic development process here," Bellone said. "So, to the extent that we have not aligned those processes, we are hurting ourselves competitively against other regions of the country."

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who said she has fielded complaints from constituents about delays and backlogs, called the online system a long time in coming. "Looks like we're coming out of the 1950s now," she said.

Applicants may go to suffolkcountyny.gov/sst to view the new application system.

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