Case Study

Town of New Canaan, CT, Health Department Revenue Up 30% Within Three Months of Permitting and Licensing Software Implementation

The Town of New Canaan, CT, is considered part of the State’s affluent Gold Coast. But when it came to permitting and licensing, things were not so golden. Until recently, the entirely manual, paper-based process was cumbersome and lengthy. Buried in paper applications, Town staff spent weeks getting applications through the review process. Paper checks had to be documented and deposited. No one—not staff or applicants—was happy with the process.

That all changed when the Town invested in OpenGov Permitting & Licensing for five of its departments—Health, Building, Inland Wetlands, Planning & Zoning, and Public Works. Piles of paper were replaced by online documentation. Time-consuming trips to Town offices become a thing of the past for contractors and the public. Technology allowed for more permits and licenses to be processed. Among the biggest wins: a 30% revenue increase for the Health Department alone  in the first three months after implementation.

“Now that it’s up and running, [department staff] see how much easier it’s made their life. They’re not doing data entry anymore. And our auditors, internal and external, love it because now we’re getting money right up front, where before we weren’t. So our revenue has almost doubled because of OpenGov.”
– Jenn Eielson, Health Director

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Customer Results

Health Department Achieved Annual Revenue Goal in 6 Months

Permitting Process Timeline Went from Weeks to Days

24/7/365 Customer Accessibility

Staff Has More Time for Strategic Work

The Challenge

Before OpenGov’s implementation, every step of the permitting and licensing process was manual. Applicants had to visit the Town Hall or attach a cumbersome PDF to email to submit a permit. After submission, paper applications went from one reviewer’s desk to another. If someone within the review process was on vacation, the permit sat waiting for their return.

What’s more, the Town did not have the ability to accept credit cards or e-payments. It accepted only paper checks, which were submitted when the applicant came in person to claim the permit or license. If the applicant never showed, the fee was not paid, despite the hours of staff time that went into processing the permit.

The Solution

Several department leaders knew they needed a change. In early 2023, Health Director Jenn Eielson and IT Director, Chris Kaiser, requested and received approval from the Town Council to invest in OpenGov Permitting & Licensing. While the request was made for Land Use permitting, the intent was for several departments to use the online permitting software.

Before the Town launched the software, Eielson, who served as the OpenGov implementation project manager, told the Health and Human Services Commission that she expected OpenGov to streamline efficiency and vastly improve interdepartmental communication.

The Results

As it turned out, going from no-tech to technologically modern dramatically improved every aspect of the permitting process.

“Now that it’s up and running, [department staff] see how much easier it’s made their life. They’re not doing data entry anymore,” Eielson said. “And our auditors, internal and external, love it because now we’re getting money right up front, where before we weren’t. So our revenue has almost doubled because of OpenGov.”

Technology Paid for Itself

The 30% increase in Health Department revenue came during November, December, and January, the slowest time of the year for permits. After the six-month implementation mark at the end of April 2024, the team recorded $1 million of revenue, already surpassing the fiscal year budget goal of $800,000. The extra $200,000 has more than paid for OpenGov’s implementation. The bonus: The Department had not even started its busy permitting season.

With the significant revenue increase, coupled with reduced expenses in paper and other office supplies, Eielson expects the Town Council and Board of Finance “will be thrilled” with end-of-year revenue results.

Permitting Process Cut from Weeks to Days

With the former paper-based process, the time between applying for and getting a permit averaged seven to eight weeks. With OpenGov, the process takes less than a week, usually just a couple of days. That’s thanks to the simultaneous review departments can do online rather than waiting for applications to land on desks.

And when a reviewer is on vacation, the permit no longer sits in waiting. Another reviewer can be assigned to keep the process flowing smoothly.

Staff Workload Reduced

In the old days, staff and permit applicants were in contact regularly from application submission to approval. Likewise, applicants waiting for inspection results often called to ask whether they passed. Those days are gone. Today, counter traffic is nearly zero, and phones are, for the most part, silent as applicants receive email notifications or can find what they need online.

Staff scan only a few paper checks a month as nearly all payments are made online. The documents that were once manually scanned for public viewing are added virtually as an attachment to the project.

The hours saved are now spent on more strategic work.

Customer Service Enhanced

Customers applying for permits usually have little time to spare. Time is money, especially for contractors. Eielson says contractors are “absolutely thrilled” with OpenGov’s accessibility that allows them to submit and pay for an application 24/7/365. For small permits, such as for electrical and plumbing work, contractors are issued the permit upon payment.

Onsite Inspections Made Easier

Inspectors in the field have an easier job thanks to OpenGov’s mobile capabilities. A septic inspector, for example, can log on in the field, take photos, and add them to the permit. Building Department inspectors use their mobile devices to complete inspections, rather than waiting to get back to the office to manually input the information.

What’s Next

Because OpenGov has been so well received within the five departments that use it, as well as the public, Eielson hopes to get other departments on board so that the Town can work from one system.

“It is a headache for our Finance Department to have all these other different permit systems,” she said. “Now that we know it works and it works well, the ultimate goal would be to get more departments on it, to make it more streamlined with one system.”

“The system’s very user-friendly. It’s been great because I’m all about transparency and data. This system does that 10-fold.”

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