Last year, the city unveiled a new digital program designed to save residents time, money and paper when applying for various permits.
“The City of Maricopa Online Services” system includes business license applications and renewals.
Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the city currently processes between 1,200 and 1,500 business licenses every year and, since the documents are submitted and approved online, the turnaround time for approval is significantly quicker than before.
Although the transition from paper to digital was made in part to make the process convenient for customers, some residents have said it’s done the opposite.
The discussion took place during Henry Wade’s “Councilmember on the Corner” public forum at Highway 238 Industrial Park Jan. 10.
Residents complained the website is not user-friendly and suggested the name of the link be changed to something relevant and recognizable.
As explained during a tutorial at the meeting, to access business license applications on the city website, residents can click a link titled “Access Online Permitting & Parcel Search,” which residents said is confusing.
However, another link, “Apply for a Business License” is just below and takes residents to the same destination.
Scribner said the city plans to edit the language on its website during a future redesign.
Resident and local business owner Tena Dugan said the city’s customer service over the telephone is another area in need of improvement.
“It’s very frustrating to call and not get your question answered,” Dugan said, adding employees were helpful when she reached them in the past.
Scribner said staff inside the business licensing department works to answer every phone call and every question. However, he said he would like to hire more employees in the department in the future.
Residents also said the digital application process might be a hinderance to residents who are not well-versed with computers as well as to people who have limited or no access to computers. Dugan suggested a small-business “advocate” at City Hall be hired to help residents.
Isela Hernandez, an employee within the city’s business license department, reminded residents that there are computer kiosks inside City Hall where the applications can be completed with the assistance of a city employee during normal operation hours, Monday through Thursday.
Local business owner Eduardo Quirindongo said despite some of the issues with the new process, the online portal does have its perks.
“It’s a lot better than going to City Hall on Friday,” Quirindongo joked.
Another sticking point for Dugan was the lack of notice from the city for renewing her license.
Currently, every business license issued in Maricopa expires at the end of the year, flooding the department with renewal paperwork over the course of a short time.
Although the city attempts to send a renewal notice to every license holder, Scribner said sometimes there are “hiccups.”
Scribner said the department would like to see a change in city code to allow renewal deadlines to reflect the anniversary of business license applications. Scribner said that way, renewals will be spread throughout the year and will be easier to process for employees.
“This is still new to us so next time we will definitely do better,” Hernandez said.
See this tutorial for more information.