When our tiny county in Mississippi decided to start issuing building permits and performing inspections, I didn’t know what to expect. I worked in the tax office and we’d handled all the permits up to that point. We took out the big book and wrote out the permit in triplicate and then collected the taxes. There weren’t any inspections. I wasn’t really sure what we were going to do, and I was nervous about having to learn a new way of doing things. The county decided that someone from the tax office had to be moved to the new building inspector’s office. My boss decided that I would be the one who worked in the building inspector’s office.
I was moved into a different office and got a desk with a computer on it. They explained that all of the permits would now be issued using permit software. They had a computer simulation to help me learn how to use the building permit software. Fortunately that didn’t seem very hard. I started to think that maybe this was going to be easier than I had thought. Then they hired a couple of people to be building inspectors. I would issue a permit in the permit software and collect the fees. I printed out the permit and receipt and gave it to the person, usually a contractor, along with a brochure that explained the new procedures. The building inspectors got all their information on these little handheld devices that communicated with the permit software. I was surprised at how quickly they could see what I did and how quickly I could see what they did, even when we were anywhere near each other. When I issued a permit, something would happen on the handheld device to tell the building inspectors that a permit had been issued.
The building inspector would make a site visit and would contact the contractor to explain what else the contractor needed to do. Each time the contractor got to a certain stage; they had to call for an inspection. When those calls came into my office, then I had a different part of the building permit software that I used to let the building inspector know that they needed to go back out and visit. When they went out to the site and did an inspection, they would put the information in the handheld device and it would update into my permit software. It took me a few months, but I was finally feeling like I understood what I was supposed to do and how things worked again.
When someone called for an update, I was able to see what was happening and could answer questions when people called based on what the building inspectors put in the computer. Then the county hired a manager for the building inspector’s office. The manager wanted all these reports. I spent hours on the phone with the permit software technicians, learning how to create reports. Apparently, they didn’t have a simulation to teach that part. It seemed to me that I learned about hundreds of reports. With the reports, he was able to see how busy the building inspectors were and was able to keep tabs on what was going on.
After about a month of being in the office all the time, the manager started going out in the field and working directly with the building inspectors. I breathed a big sigh of relief every time he was out. I felt like he was always looking over my shoulder and that made me nervous. However, as time went, on we got to know each other better. and I felt secure in my job again.