Office of Mayor William Peduto
Mayor William Peduto and Director Maura Kennedy Detail Customer Service, Technology and Staffing Upgrades to the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections

PITTSBURGH, PA (May 15, 2015) New changes are underway at the Department of Permits, Licenses & Inspections to make it more customer-friendly and efficient for Pittsburgh residents and businesses, Mayor William Peduto announced today.

The changes spearheaded by PLI Director Maura Kennedy include upgrades to the department’s technology and its staffing. PLI currently has more code and senior inspectors than it was had in years, without increasing its budget: Director Kennedy has been shifting staff away from time-consuming clerical positions to hands-on duties through the increased use of technology.

All this is happening during a boom in work for the office: the number of permits issued through April (1,151) is 30% higher than the same period last year, and the $287.3 million value of those permits is 128% higher in that period. From 2012 to 2014 the total permits almost doubled from $391 million to $769 million.

“With commercial and neighborhood development booming in Pittsburgh, our building inspectors are finally getting the tools they need,” Mayor Peduto said. “PLI is harnessing technology to make its work more efficient and transparent for residents and developers alike.”

At a press conference today the Mayor and Director laid out the improvements coming from the department in customer service, technology and staffing.

Customer service

Starting in the summer, PLI will begin taking credit card payments for permits and licenses. While applicants are currently required to pay with checks or money orders, the department will soon allow for credit card transactions.

Later in the summer the department is scheduled to move to a modern and transparent inspection process that allows residents and businesses to publicly track building violation data online. Building owners -- as well as residents and neighborhood groups -- will be able to track violations online in real time, creating a predictable and transparent inspection process. Permit application tracking data is expected to go online next year.

The system will make inspection matters clearer for any business or city citizen, and allow for interaction with the city’s 311 Service Center. The changes will allow those interested in a property to easily and transparently check on its inspection status.

Staffing

PLI currently has more inspectors than it was had in years. The department currently has 36 code inspectors and senior inspectors, up from 34 in 2012 and 2013. The additions have been made without impacting the department’s budget by shifting staff from clerical work through the increased use of technology.

Inspectors are also being cross-trained in Pennsylvania Construction Code Academy and Building Fire Code Academy certifications that will allow them to handle different duties. By late this fall the training will allow one inspector to handle multiple duties at a building -- from HVAC to accessibility and fire permits -- rather than require visits from multiple inspectors.

Technology

In addition to the customer service upgrades coming this summer PLI is in the midst of back-office changes to finally bring the department into the 21st century.

Many behind-the-scenes efficiency upgrades to the former Bureau of Building Inspection are still needed, but underway.

The department uses 13 completely separate digital databases, and a giant file room with paper records on building code violations and property maintenance issues. To research issues with any one property PLI officials have to search through several different paper and digital databases. Additionally, staffers write out inspections by hand, and hand type each and every violation notice. They write the results of each permit inspection on the back of each permit, and hand type any notices related to permits.

Under Director Kennedy’s supervision the department only last year issued inspectors computers and email addresses for the first time, and they started doing their first real-time data entry. Over the next two years, by relaunching the Accela system, the department will begin merging its several separate digital and paper databases into one modern system.

PLI’s offices are almost through a physical upgrade that is wiring its two floors of offices in the Robin Civic Building for the Internet for the first time.

2012-2015 Permit Data

2012 Total Permits Issued: 2,510. Total Cost: $390,796,376

2012 Jan-April Total Permits Issued: 662. Total Cost: $72,203,336

2013 Total Permits Issued: 3,116. Total Cost: $603,252,742

2013 Jan-April Total Permits Issued: 704. Total Cost: $92,893,428.

2014 Total Permits Issued: 3,695. Total Cost: $768,541,775

2014 Jan-April Total Permits Issued: 900. Total Cost: $115,784,874

2015 Jan-April Total Permits Issued: 1,151. Total Cost: $287,317,080

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Published:
Friday, May 15, 2015
Contacts
Timothy McNulty
Communications Director
City of Pittsburgh
Cell: 412-660-1999
Email

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