Alliance launches permit portal
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Aug 09, 2002
Nine cities in King County, Wash., have formed an e-government alliance
enabling them to take advantage of information technology investments, share
expertise and training, streamline and improve business processes, and deliver
electronic services to constituents.
The first such service launched by the King County e-Gov Alliance (www.ecitygov.net) is a unified electronic permit portal a one-stop shop
for area building contractors to apply and pay for various permits across
jurisdictional boundaries (www.mybuildingpermit.com).
"I would characterize the initial [nine] cities as venture capitalists,"
said Toni Cramer, chief information officer for Bellevue, Wash., and co-chairman
of the alliance, which was formally established in April. "They bought an
idea and they put a lot of faith and trust in the staff to be able to actually
work out the details and bring this on. It's pretty entrepreneurial for
cities to do something like this."
In addition to Bellevue, which hosts the online permit application,
participating cities include Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland, Issaquah, Mercer
Island, Sammamish, Snoqualmie and Woodinville. The nine cities have a combined
population of 300,000.
Such an alliance isn't unprecedented. The federal government is involved
in a project called Government Without Boundaries with several states and
cities to share information and transactional services. And in many other
regions, law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions are using
technology to share information.
A smart cities initiative in southern California produced a similar
permitting application, Cramer said, but the participating cities run the
The King County alliance began nearly two years ago when an idea was
presented at a meeting of the county's city managers that the municipalities
should collaborate on a strategic plan for electronic service delivery,
thereby saving money, she said.
The alliance formed a governing board composed of the city managers
of each participating city. Within the e-permit project, for example, a
number of "intercity teams" were created to map out the financial, marketing,
business process, building standards and technology issues.
"The biggest challenge has been the business process alignment," Cramer
said. Borrowing a colleague's analogy, she said that "everybody's got their
kitchen arranged in a different way in the neighborhood and if everybody
tried to get together and agree on a way to arrange it, it's not rocket
science, but it's complicated."
Another major benefit has been sharing expertise and training. Cramer
said people in smaller jurisdictions work on projects collaboratively; otherwise
they'd never be able to afford it.
The alliance has three membership levels. The basic membership allows
cities to pay a nominal fee to "stay connected" and participate in things
such as joint purchasing. At the subscriber level, cities pay a yearly fee
so they can participate in an individual application as it is rolled out.
But most cities in the alliance are full partners a "co-ownership model,"
"Bellevue is an owner of this centralized infrastructure," Cramer said.
"The alliance actually owns the server, they own the intellectual property
rights for the applications, they buy staff time from Bellevue and they
share in all of the equity in any potential revenues. And the cost split
is based on...population of a city."
Future alliance applications include:
* A parks and recreation module for scheduling facilities and reservations.
* A utility billing service.
* A component for paying parking tickets.
* A module to handle and track citizen service requests.
* An internal consolidated online job component.
* A centralized site for requests for proposals and bids.
The alliance received assistance from Microsoft Corp., which donated
$75,000 in software and also provided consulting, Cramer said. Software
and services included Commerce Server 2000, SQL Server 2000, BizTalk Server
2000, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Internet Information Server 5.0.
She said Microsoft provided training to multiple city groups on the configuration
on a couple of its products.