The Livingston Parish Council is considering modernizing the way the parish handles permitting for construction work, but it will come at a cost.
The new system, to be paid for by raising the fees for construction permits, would allow developers and contractors to submit plans and track the status of their permit requests online.
The parish council is expected to vote later this month on an ordinance that would raise base fees for commercial and residential construction permits for heating and air, plumbing, electrical and roofing.
Commercial permit fees would go up from $150 to $200 and residential construction permits would increase from $100 to $150 in order to pay for new software called “My Permit Now.”
Contractor groups say they favor the move, even though it will cost them a little more to get permits, because it’s a more efficient and convenient process.
Livingston Parish Permit Director DeeDee Delatte said the new software would allow builders to submit their plans online. The system would also allow builders to check on the status of their permits and inspections in real time.
Instead of leaving a note on the physical property, as is the case now, inspectors would input their decisions online through a tablet, she said. Builders could sign up for text or email notifications.
Delatte said the online system would be an upgrade, eliminating the need for two incompatible computer programs and a lot of paper.
If approved, the new system would be implemented by the end of 2018, she said.
The Livingston Parish permit office is responsible for issuing construction permits in the unincorporated parts of the parish, as well as in the villages of French Settlement, Killian and Port Vincent, Delatte said.
She said the new permit fees should not affect homeowners rebuilding after the flood, as they were issued special flood permits without fees.
The same system Livingston Parish is considering is now used in East Baton Rouge Parish, and Delatte said contractors are familiar with it.
Finance Director Jennifer Meyers said the $50 fee increase was determined as what would be required to pay for the new software, which is priced based on the number of permits issued each month.
Meyers said the new software would also deal with a recurring audit problem. The system in place now skips numbers, which auditors have noted makes it susceptible to fraud, she said.
Ken Naquin, CEO of Louisiana Associated General Contractors, said his group supports the parish’s move to the My Permit Now system.
"We found that in parishes that have used it, contractors and developers have gotten permits quicker and easier," he said.
Naquin said the $50 increase is not a problem if it means fewer paper plans and quicker inspections.
"If we can get the stuff on a timely basis, that's well worth it," he said.
John Blount, a commercial contractor based in Walker, said he is also in favor of the change to a realtime system and said he would have no issue with the fee increase if the system works as described.
"That would cut out a lot of the running," he said, referring to workers needing to check on the physical job site to see if they passed an inspection.
The parish council will hold a public hearing and vote on the fee increase on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m.