Planning Department Replaces Obsolete Platform with Customized Database Program
As the second-largest county in the state of Arkansas, Washington County is home to approximately 250,000, including students of the renowned University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The county’s Planning Department holds jurisdiction over the zoning and land use, issuance of building permits and planning-related ordinances for the rural and urban areas in Washington County, operating from a satellite campus just off of the county courthouse.
Core functionalities of the Planning Department were hinging on the operation of a database first created more than 20 years ago, on the now-obsolete, unsupported Microsoft Access platform. Because the general architecture of the program was falling so significantly short of meeting the department’s needs, great amounts of time were spent maintaining spreadsheets to help track information and workflows within the county.
“We had to get something that was more efficient, or we were going to have to increase our workforce,” Juliet Richey, Planning Director, said. “We had all of the pieces, but no way to tie them together.”
After engaging the AOS Development team to update the database program for Washington County’s Road Department, and due to the overlap of the departments, AOS was tasked with designing a new database for the Planning Department. The program would utilize Structured Query Language (SQL), a language regularly used and supported by the county’s IT Department, to facilitate in-house maintenance of the solution and subsequent updates. Rather than purchasing an “off the shelf” application that would require additional customization, potentially invalidating a vendor warranty, AOS Development provided a unique platform owned by the County.
Completed in May 2014, the Planning Department database project achieved several primary accomplishments, including workload reduction. The average staff time to complete an administrative lot split was reduced from 45 minutes on the Access platform, to just 15 minutes. The average time to produce notifications for neighboring properties was taken from an average of two hours to 30 minutes. These quick assessments and statistics, needed by the department on a frequent basis, provide improved record-keeping with significantly less room for human error.
“Building an infrastructure like that into software pays for itself times over,” Richey said. “I feel that AOS was very open to ensuring that we got a quality product that was going to last, not just something that looked good out of the gate and would function for a couple of years.”