Cambridge, a southwestern Ontario city, was formed thirty years ago by amalgamating Galt, Preston and Hespeler, three older agricultural communities with European roots. Today, Cambridge is a center of high-tech automotive and industrial manufacturing.
Cambridge’s Building and Enforcement Services Division had several challenges associated with issuing 2500 paper-based permits per year. They needed a solution to help them cut down on permit processing time and improve performance by changing the old paper based system to an electronic system.
CSDC’s AMANDA was the perfect solution for Cambridge, given it’s fully automated permitting system. Furthermore, AMANDA’s robust platform allowed Cambridge to easily configure solutions for their 6 classes of permits and the respective approval processes and fees.
Cambridge’s Building and Enforcement Services Division issues 2500 permits per year. It used to maintain all its permits in paper files prior to AMANDA. This process became very cumbersome and time consuming to maintain.
Recent Provincial performance standard legislation and demands for organizational efficiency prompted the department to track their performance. The City’s CBO Gerald Moore always wanted to benchmark City performance. The new laws provided the final motivation to go ahead. In 2005, the city staff teamed with CSDC to resolve these issues. They implemented AMANDA, enabling the staff to complete their work efficiently. The AMANDA to-do list shows plans examiners the permits assigned to them, and how much time has been allocated to process the application. This alows plan reviewers to prioritize their permit work.
“AMANDA has helped staff meet legislative timelines and give timely responses to applications; it’s just second nature to them now.”
Cambridge has six classes of building permits. Each has its own fees, approval processes and time limits. The classes are:
Business and Personal Services
Each class has a different business rule to be followed and fees to manage. AMANDA manages all workflows and fee calculations. This ensures that Cambridge’s permit fee collection does not exceed the the anticipated reasonable cost of administering the department. Cambridge now complies with the new Building Code. Each staffer adds notes and comments as they work. All can see the changes they make in AMANDA and carry out any remaining tasks in their absence.
Before AMANDA, the Zoning team used paper to log reports. This was not a sustainable solution: data was lost, results were not recorded, and they were plagued by documentation problems. Today, staff at Cambridge use the AMANDA to-do list to manage their workflow. AMANDA enables the zoning officer, site planner, heritage planner, and grading engineer to work in parallel with the building department. If one reviewer finds a deficiency, the process doesn’t come to a halt, it moves ahead in the other departments. Reports show the time each department spends on an application, as well as the scheduled date vs the actual date a process is completed.
AMANDA is used to maintain a complete list of all the buildings connected to the City water and sewage system. When the water system is compromised, AMANDA keeps a record of all the back flow prevention devices in use. It ensures these are tested annually. Inspections are done once a year.
Municipalities need to be transparent with their citizens. Cambridge takes the lead in how it handles this transparency. To meet Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, AMANDA routes FOIA requests to the appropriate department. The department manages the request, distributes the information collected, and then identifies the report as ‘closed’ (meaning the information is released); or ‘on appeal’ in which case an independent party decides if the department can withhold the information. The applicant’s name is encrypted so that only the person handling the request knows the name of the requestor. The request can be flagged as confidential, meaning only AMANDA authorized users view the request.
These measures ensure the integrity of government operations and keeps Cambridge open to its public. To continue to grow AMANDA Cambridge is planning to add building inspection deficiencies, generate more documents and extend AMANDA to work with their GIS (Geographic Information System). They also plan to extend AMANDA to inspectors in the field. Inspectors will be able to perform inspections using their their mobile device and plan their work accordingly.