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Written by Dan Dolan on January 4, 2007
By Dan Dolan
A new Internet portal designed to make it easier for Miami-Dade developers and homeowners to get building permits and inspections was officially launched this week by the county’s Government Information Center.
The new Website named Buildit (www.buildit.miamidade.gov) creates a single stop for people who want to apply for building permits, pay fees, check contractor credentials, research land use codes, renew licenses or arrange for a building inspection, said Debbie Higer, assistant director at the year-old Government Information Center, which also operates the 311 call system.
"Until now, you would have to go to eight different departments to get this information," Ms. Higer said. "We’ve streamlined the process to save people time and frustration. It works whether you’re a homeowner looking to install a new fence or a large developer."
Ms. Higer said Miami-Dade’s construction industry is "excited" about the potential of the new Website, which was created after Mayor Carlos Alvarez and the county commission’s land use committee chaired by Natacha Seijas directed the county manager to simplify the building permit process last year.
Buildit was developed through the collaboration of the Latin Builders Association, real estate professionals and the county’s departments of budget, building code, environmental resources, fire, zoning, public works, water and property appraisal, she said.
"We’ve produced a unique product that meets their unique needs," Ms. Higer said. "This is part of our commitment to improve public access to government."
As part of that push, Ms. Higer said her department created two other new services last month. She said a new Housing Central Portal (www.housing.miamidade.gov) sets up a one-stop center for residents looking to buy or rent a home. This site includes real estate listings and on-line applications for financial aid or government housing assistance, she said.
Another new site, On Demand (www.miamidade.gov/ondemand), brings the county-run cable TV channel to the Internet. The site offers everything from news clips to archived sessions of government agencies’ public meetings.
"We developed On Demand to supplement the county’s cable TV operations because cable subscriptions are declining," Ms. Higer said. "Just four years ago, 62% of all homes in Miami-Dade subscribed to cable TV. Last year, it was down to 47%. So either we closed down our TV operation or came up with a new way to reach the public with that programming. On Demand was the result. We expect it will be a big hit."
Ms. Higer said the county’s live Internet broadcasts of county commission meetings (www.miamidade.gov/webcast) are an unqualified success. That program, launched a year ago this month, keeps growing in popularity, she said. About 16,500 people log-on daily and there were 4.1 million total users last year.
The county’s main Internet portal (www.miamidade.gov), established in 2005, is also growing, Ms. Higer said. More than 7 million visits were recorded in 2006, she said, up 24% from the prior year.
No new programs are in the pipelines for 2007, Ms. Higer said. Her department’s 135 employees, she said, will spend this year tweaking existing projects and developing new internal systems.