Sarnia City Hall. September 2018 Photo by Melanie Irwin

New software to permit faster city applications

The City of Sarnia is looking to streamline the issuing of permits with new software expected to come online next spring.

Community Development Services and Standards Director Alan Shaw says modernizing the process by using an online portal is long overdue.

“Our biggest hope is that we can significantly reduce application times,” said Shaw. “Currently when we take an application in, we receive a hard copy. That hard copy is then transferred around the horns, from building to planning, planning to the county for plumbing, from the county to the fire department for review by the fire department and then back to the building department.”

Shaw said each of those transfers accounts for two days, wherein the future everyone will get it at once.

“In a situation where we’re actually taking on applications, it will go out in a tentacle type fashion,” said Shaw. “Everybody will get notified of this project, have all the information they need to review the project and they’ll all receive that within minutes. So we are actually expecting that we’ll significantly reduce applications and permitting times and it’s currently what the rest of the municipalities in Ontario are working towards.”

Shaw provided the update during a special meeting of Sarnia council Monday, to discuss corporate priorities and strategic planning for the 2019 budget.

The department is also planning for the repair/redevelopment of the Vendome parking lot. A review of community improvement plans and development of business strategies for the city’s business parks, Sarnia Harbour and Chris Hadfield Airport is also planned next year.

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Sarnia Fire is hoping to make further progress with its Colborne Road Fire Station building project in 2019 and purchase 25 new sets of bunker gear.

The department has also budgeted $1.9 million to replace an aerial truck.

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The city’s Realty and Property Services Insurance and Risk Management department has budgeted $400,000 to replace the air conditioning unit at Sarnia Library.

A LED lighting retrofit is also planned.

No bids were received for the 2018 renovations. Staff planned to issue a call for proposals again this fall for washroom renovations on the second floor to make the entrance accessible.

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The clerk’s department is exploring environmentally controlled spaces to store inactive records.

Planning is also underway to prepare for the implementation of cannabis legalization and changes to the integrity commissioner duties.

The province has mandated that all municipalities must have a commissioner in place by the middle of 2019.

The city may partner with other Lambton municipalities to hire one integrity commissioner to share the cost.

Sarnia’s contract with Robert Swayze, who is paid $3,000 a year plus expenses, expires March 1, 2019.