Tibby DeJulio is among the Sandy Springs officials, employees and residents who are fed up with the problems arising from the EnerGov software the city uses for its permitting process.
“The process we’ve been using with EnerGov has been such a disaster that two or three weeks ago, the city manager sent out an email about how we should handle all the complaints because we have been getting so many complaints from constituents around the city about how long it’s been taking to get communication, not getting the communication, various things going on here,” the District 5 Sandy Springs City Council member said. “… (Someone put) in a request for a swimming pool three months ago and by the time they get it, it’s (wintertime).”
DeJulio was among those who spoke about the software at the council’s May 18 meeting at City Springs, where the group voted 6-0 to approve an amendment to its contract with Tyler Technologies, the Plano, Texas-based company that makes EnerGov.
According to the city’s online document regarding the amended contract (a copy of which is to the left), it will cost a total of $302,099.49. The maintenance and support portion will go from $4,593.96 May 18 through June 30 (the current fiscal year) to $54,727.48 in fiscal 2022, with 3% increases in the two following fiscal years, and the subscription fees will rise from $4,712.37 May 18 through June 30 to $40,000 in fiscal 2022, also with 3% increases in the two subsequent fiscal years.
For fiscal 2021, Sandy Springs is paying a total of $54,321 for EnerGov’s services (including subscription fees and maintenance and support), said Dan Coffer, a city spokesman.
Ginger Sottile, the city’s director of community development, said the system upgrade will allow Sandy Springs to hire an individual whose sole purpose is to handle all applicants’ calls, emails and other communication regarding their pending permits and any problems they are having and solve them quickly. In the past the city used a team of employees to approve or deny permits.
Though EnerGov is not perfect, Sottile said it’s one of the most popular government software programs for community development departments in the nation.
She said some of the issues the city was having with the software originate from Sandy Springs’ switch from a 90% paper system, which it had used for the first 15 years of the city’s existence, to a completely paperless one in less than a year, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope this concierge type of service … (with) this dedicated person will be able to help us achieve that goal” of solving these problems, Sottile said.
Under the old system, delays in the process were caused by an applicant first emailing or calling the permit office, Build Sandy Springs, and then emailing or calling multiple other city employees or officials, such as council members, about the issue when they didn’t get a response within 24 hours, she said.
“The volume of calls and emails as a result of going to this paperless and really contactless way of doing business has created kind of a distrust, if you will, because they’re not familiar with it,” Sottile said, adding the concierge can also determine if there are any software problems. “… So there are little glitches like that that happen all the time, and unless somebody tells us, we don’t know they exist. And there are multiples of those types of problems with the system.”
She said the city plans to host more a seminar in the coming weeks to educate contractors and others on how to use the software properly in the permitting process. In response to a question from Mayor Rusty Paul about the cost of adding a billing upgrade, she said it’s an extra $20,000 a year but the city may get it for free through its new contract.
District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett asked if there’s a way the city can track its success rate in terms of permits being approved or denied by their deadline.
In response, Sottile said, “We currently have the ability to see how any reviews are delinquent. I can tell you there might be 100 that are delinquent. They could be delinquent one day or 100 days. It doesn’t tell you (how long).”