PORT TOWNSEND — A 5 percent technology fee will be added to fee schedules in the community development department and some in public works starting Sunday, Jefferson County commissioners have decided.
The fee approved by county commissioners last Monday will provide funding for annual maintenance and eventual replacement of a permit software system.
The projected annual set-aside for the capital reserve is $18,000 which will accumulate over 20 years and be available to replace the software based on the projected costs for the system at that time.
Commissioners David Sullivan and Kathleen Kler heard comments from Jodi Adams, building and administrative services manager, and Mark McCauley, central services manager, about the proposed fee ordinance. Commissioner Kate Dean, who is on vacation in Europe, tried connecting via Skype but was unsuccessful and did not participate in the vote. Both Sullivan and Kler voted in favor of the ordinance.
McCauley said the county began using the legacy system Tidemark in 1996 along with other counties around the state. He said most are in the process of replacing the system for the same reasons: The company that designed the system is no longer actively supporting it.
“Finding someone to work on an old and functionally-obsolete system is difficult,” McCauley said. “Like other counties, we are looking to buy state-of-the-art software that will improve the permitting experience for our citizens and make staff much more efficient and effective in the performance of their duties.”
McCauley said that 22 years ago, when the system was purchased, there was no mechanism to build a replacement fund.
“In order to replace Tidemark, we had to ask for $300,000 out of our capital improvement fund and, fortunately, there was general fund money that could be used for this purpose,” he said.
“Going forward, staff believes it would be prudent to apply a 5 percent technology surcharge to fees that are charged by a number of county departments.”
The surcharge will be applied to fees charged by community development and selected fees charged by public works. The amount was calculated by looking at past permit volume experience, the consumer price index and projected permit volumes over the next 20 years.
“We know that what we earn each year fluctuates so we looked at highs and lows over 20 years,” Adams said. “We aren’t looking to create an additional savings account. This is strictly for replacement costs for a future database.
“We have no problem analyzing this every five years and reducing the fee as needed if we end up accumulating more than expected.”
McCauley said the new software, EnerGov from Tyler Technologies, comes with a waiver for the first year of maintenance, then begins a charge in the second year of about $26,000 per year.
An escalator built into the contract increases the maintenance fee. McCauley is confident the new fee structure will provide the resources needed to keep the software maintained with enough money to purchase a new system years from now, “without having to go into capital funds again.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or a [email protected]