Hoquiam to switch to online building permit system

The City of Hoquiam is using a portion of its reimbursable federal CARES Act funds to replace its current hard-copy building permit system with an online system, and to make improvements to the fire hall and police headquarters.

The city is entitled to $256,200 in CARES Act funds, which can be used for public health and other uses specifically tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are reimbursable funds — the city must provide the money up front, then apply for reimbursement with the state Department of Commerce.

The City Council on Monday approved the purchase of the permitting software. The shutdown of Hoquiam City Hall in the early months of the pandemic created challenges in many of the city’s services, including the ability to apply for building permits. Currently the city has a hard copy permitting system, and when the office was closed, it was difficult to apply for permits.

“This is a good use of our COVID money,” said City Councilman Steven Puvogel, allowing access to building permits even if the offices are closed down. Mayor Ben Winkelman said, “This definitely addresses that issue, if we have to close city office buildings.”

The online system is currently in use by the City of Aberdeen.

“Aberdeen has that software, and about a year and a half ago our staff trained on it and loved it,” said City Administrator Brian Shay. “They wanted (the city) to buy it then but we didn’t have the money.”

With the CARES Act funds, and with Aberdeen adding Hoquiam to its current agreement with the software company, the cost of the first year of the online permitting system is $24,089.

“By joining the Aberdeen agreement, we’re saving $33,000 — more than half the cost — the first year,” said Shay.

“This new program will be very beneficial to homeowners, builders and staff and will help keep them safe during the COVID pandemic,” read Shay’s report to the council.

The city council also approved $43,482 to Great Floors LLC to replace the floors in the fire hall and police department. The flooring is in high-use areas that need to be sanitized frequently due to COVID-19 concerns.

“This is a good use of our COVID reimbursement funds,” said Puvogel, making for a more sanitary environment in both buildings.