Kansas City, Mo., City Manager reveals changes to permit process following investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City, Mo., City Manager Troy Schulte said an overhaul of the permit process will help prevent problems uncovered by a 41 Action News investigation in March.

That report found excavation permit applications that weren't approved until months later, well after the digging had already been completed.

On Wednesday, Schulte spoke about the changes that have taken place at City Hall to streamline the process. The approach had not been reviewed for about 25 years, he said.

The permit issue first came under the microscope in the wake of February's deadly explosion on the Plaza. The contractor digging outside JJ's restaurant did not have an approved excavation permit for the work.

However, 41 Action News later revealed the company, Heartland Midwest, had faxed the required paperwork weeks earlier. At the time, Schulte said the confusion made the city look sloppy.

"It was very frustrating because managing the right-of-ways is one of our core responsibilities of city government," Schulte said.

The new process is more automated and includes email notifications, even if the application arrives by fax. Schulte said the goal is getting approved permits turned around in 48 hours or less.

The solution was overdue because the permit workload is continuing at a feverish pace.

Schulte said the city receives up to 1,500 permit requests every month, many of those excavation projects to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure.

Permit fees for Google, AT&T and Time Warner have also been waived for work related to installing fiber optic cable. Schulte said not collecting that money seemed to be another reason the process was failing.

"We're no longer relying on that single individual to make sure there's paper in the fax machine. Those days are behind us," Schulte said, "Would I say we're perfect? I'm not sure we're perfect, but we're a heck of a lot better than we were in January."

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Facebook.

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