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Y2K fallout: New computer slows building permit office
By Julie B. Hairston, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Y2K bug did not shut down the city's business systems, but one of the remedies--a new computer system--has slowed things down considerably.
Atlanta's Bureau of Buildings, the city agency that issues permits for all construction, has been swamped all week with builders and property owners. People are waiting for hours for permits that would have required about 25 minutes to get before the end of December.
The problem, according to bureau Director Norman Koplon, is that the new computer system isn't operating properly. "Part of the delay that I can pinpoint is making sure that the parcel code numbers match up with the street addresses," Koplon said.
Bureau staff are becoming mired in computer snafus while lines of would-be builders get longer in front of the counter.
"If you find a glitch in the system, you've just got to lay down other business and solve the problem right away," Koplon said.
Builders with projects hanging in the balance are fuming. Homeowners with repairs to make are walking away frustrated. "It's just a mess down there," said Doug Calderwood, a loft developer who spent four hours in the bureau Wednesday before walking away without his permit. "It's always been bad, but it shouldn't take the entire day."
Dave Griffin, communications director for the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, said permit delays in Atlanta are nothing new, but that the latest holdup will cost home buyers money and could even price some people out of the intown market.
"In the construction industry, everything is a schedule," Griffin said. "When you flex that schedule, you throw everything off."
Construction delays push up the cost of loans that builders must take to generate money for materials and labor, and that expense ultimately gets passed through to the buyer. Calderwood said he's considering hiring a person simply to endure the wait for permits at City Hall, because he can't afford to take that much time away from the rest of his business.
Koplon and other city officials said they are working hard to fix the problem as quickly as possible. Additional workers have been assigned to the bureau to speed up permit processing as much as the computer program will allow.
The transition would have gone more smoothly, according to the city's deputy chief operating officer Jules Maderos, if the office could have closed for several days while the new computer programs were inaugurated.
Although the new computer programs helped the city avoid Y2K shutdowns, Koplon said they would have been installed even without the Y2K deadline.
"I have been assured that this will straighten itself out over a quick period of time," Koplon said.
By the end of next week, Koplon said, delays should be significantly shorter. Meanwhile, city officials are hoping to placate frustrated customers with coffee and bagels.
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