WALLA WALLA -- The Joint Community Development Agency wants the city to chip in for more efficient permit tracking software, but some city officials are questioning if now is the right time for the $95,000 expense.
At the heart of the issue is the joint city and county agency that began operating in 2010.
City officials estimated the merger of the two agencies saved the city $250,000 the first year of operation and $200,000 the second. But the merger also left the agency's staff having to use two different permit tracking programs.
Director Tom Glover said relying on two programs is inefficient because the programs are complicated and require extensive training, and he added the city's software wasn't originally designed for permit tracking.
"We are maintaining both systems, but the two systems don't talk to each other. They are not interchangeable ... This was a priority before the agency started," Glover said.
After studying both software programs, the agency determined the county's TRAKiT software was a better choice over the city's Eden software.
To include the city in the county's current TRAKiT software license, Glover said the developer is requiring an upgrade to the latest version at a cost of $154,146.
Under the current agreement with the county, the city's portion for that upgrade would come to $95,725; the county would pay $58,421.
County commissioners recently approved their portion, but City Council has yet to vote on the funding.
At last week's Council meeting, it was clear at least two Council members had reservations.
"The question is when it should be done and what the highest priorities of the city are. And at a time when we are in a very precarious financial situation ... It might be something to be considered by the Joint Community Development Board whether this priority of the agency is higher than the services that the city can offer," Council member Barbara Clark said.
"I guess when I look at the pros and cons of what the public would get out of this right now I am inclined to hold off," Council member Chris Plucker added. "I think it is in our best interest as a city to use that $95,000 elsewhere."
With the exception of Mayor Jim Barrow -- who remained silent on the matter because he sits on the board of the Joint Development Community Agency -- the remaining Council members were in favor of moving forward with funding the software switch, but an official vote has yet to take place.
Glover said the agency can continue to operate with both software programs, but he noted the agency also pays yearly software support fees to TRAKiT and Eden of $14,000 each, and that dropping one software program would save the agency $14,000.
"We could continue to pay more money than what we need to be paying, but the new (TRAKiT) system allows for greater access to the public for their permits," Glover said, adding staff felt TRAKiT was an easier-to-use system that fit better with the agency's permit tracking needs.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.