Town’s online building permit process ‘difficult,’ as shared by contractor

At least one person has encountered some difficulty with the Town of Farragut’s new online permitting process through MyGovernmentOnline, which launched in May.

Long-time contractor and Farragut resident David White addressed Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its Thursday, Aug. 8, meeting to share his experience when he tried to apply for a permit to build a garage addition at his Belleaire subdivision home earlier this summer.

“I don’t have any problem as it pertains to (professional) contractors or builders,” he began. “I think it is excellent for both you and the builder, but there is a problem with it for the everyday citizen who applies for permit to build a garage, replace a deck or screened in porch or any other minor remodeling that requires a permit. It can be overwhelming.

“I am mainly speaking for the senior citizens who might act as their own contractor,” White added.

White, 74, said in a separate interview he has worked with Town officials on a variety of projects, both personally and professionally, and he found the new online process to be “extremely difficult.

“First, you have to create an account, like they are JCPenney or something,” he said. “Then, the way it is set up, the computer doesn’t recognize automatically what you are trying to do. You have to put something in every field, even thought it doesn’t pertain to what you are doing.

“There is also a paragraph if someone is acting as a contractor, telling you to fill out a affidavit. Good luck finding it. It’s there, but it is not easy to find,” he also told the Board. “At that point, you must stop everything and get that notarized.

“Also, if you are not computer efficient and you don’t hit the ‘save’ button, you lose everything. You also better have a printer that scans because you have to scan your documents and create a PDF file.”

White said he and his wife “spent three hours trying to get through the program, and we were unsuccessful. We had a friend who was a little more computer savvy, and it took her two hours — and we still didn’t get it right.”

“Senior citizens living in older subdivisions are not going to have the computer know-how or equipment to do this,” he told the Board. “And most also don’t have the money to hire a contractor to do the work for them.”

White was quick to praise the assistance provided by Community Development director Mark Shipley and his staff.

Town Hall does offer a computer kiosk at the Community Development/Codes office where citizens may file their paperwork, as well as request assistance with the process.

“They were very willing to help,” White said. “But every response, and setting up the inspections, has to go through the program. And you have to seek help every time.

“I have a simple solution — make the application process be available the old way, for homeowners acting as their own contractor, or with the new program, if they are capable,” White suggested.

“To me, it’s just a simple fix.”

“I think you are aware we are just in the beginning of this process,” said Vice Mayor Louise Povlin. “Right now, it is a work in progress, and this is good feedback for us.”

White said he spoke with Shipley after the meeting, and, “he told me the Board was very interested in the permit process working for everybody, so they will be looking for some ways to fix it.”