Kapolei permitting office closing, city moving toward on-line permits

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The city is preparing to close its building permit counter at Kapolei as it gets ready to move all of its building permit business on-line.

Don Denison has gone to the building permit center at Kapolei Hale several times a week since it opened 11 years ago.

He has a drafting business called Don's Ohana Drafting Service in which he draws up plans and gets building permits for new homes, additions and rock walls. He likes the office because it's not very busy and it's a relatively short drive from his home in Nanakuli.

So Denison is worried about the city's plans to close it down later this year.

"I live Nanakuli-Waianae area.  And it's really going to mess me up.  Now I'm really going to have to get up early to go to town and start my plans or pay somebody to do it," Denison said.

The Kapolei building permit counter will close later this year as the city Planning and Permitting Department expands its on-line and electronic building permit initiatives, city officials said.

"These initiatives have saved the department thousands of man-hours, as well as providing the public improved services and avoiding waits in long lines," said Art Challacombe, chief of the Department of Planning and Permitting's Customer Service Office.

"I'm pretty much busy right now and if they make me go to town like that, unless I pay somebody else to run the plans for me, I won't be able to do it, because if I'm away from my drafting table, I can't make money," Denison said.

Only about 15 customers had visited the Kapolei office by shortly after noon Tuesday.  The average day sees just 20 to 30 permit customers in Kapolei.

No date has been set for the closing, after which Kapolei's four employees will be relocated to the much-busier permit center in Honolulu, Challacombe said.

The city's main permitting center at the Frank Fasi Municipal Building near City hall had 56 customers as of 1:45 p.m. Tuesday.  Its patrons are used to very long waits.

"It can range from two to five hours, depending on the numbers, how the numbers go and the complexity of the job once the person gets to the counter," said Gilda Muro, who runs a company called Permit Expeditors Corporation.

She said some patrons get to the Honolulu office at 5 a.m. so they can guarantee an early appointment once the counter opens hours later.

The city posts customer numbers on-line, so patrons can track their progress and run other errands or go back to the office and do other work while waiting their turn at the counter.

While 25 percent of all permitting applications are now completed entirely on-line, the city plans to expand the program to allow all applicants to submit their plans electronically, eliminating the need to go to the permit center in person, Challacombe said.

"Training for staff is currently under way and we expect a late-summer public roll-out date," Challacombe said.

Muro, the plan expeditor, likes the move toward electronic plans review and moving the permitting employees from Kapolei to town.

"I think it's good.  I think it will have more staff.  I know they're inundated with a lot of projects and hopefully that will alleviate the workload and it will be all evened out," Muro said.

The city plans to expand its Kapolei driver's license office, once the permitting center there closes.  Some mornings a long line of driver's license customers snakes out the door at Kapolei Hale now, employees said.

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