Round Up the POSSE

The city’s new POSSE System is a developer’s dream and a tardy contractor’s nightmare.

That favorite contractor excuse about waiting for those slow-moving city inspectors to green-tag their project isn’t going to fly any more. Dallas’ Department of Developmental Services has stepped into the 21st century with the new, $5 million online POSSE System, which tracks the status for any construction project in the city in real time.

The old system was a study in 19th century bureaucratic paper-shuffling and more backed up than a bathtub drain. Municipal workers would literally pull hard-copy maps and zoning documents from more than a half-dozen locations. Site approvals took 36 to 48 hours to get logged in.

The new system is a dose of Drano. Any contractor who has registered with the city can log in and check the status of permits, construction documents, and inspections, all instantly updated from the field. And any piece of real estate can be checked in seconds for everything from zoning and special restrictions to historical designation (hello, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad freight depot). The system is already in place and reportedly running hot in places like Edmonton, Alberta, and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The POSSE System worked so well in our neighbor to the north, the city of Edmonton won numerous awards, including a Distinction Gold Medal in the municipal category. (Edmonton-based Computronix developed POSSE.) Seems everyone stands to gain from a unified system monitoring individual projects.

“It lends a transparency to the process, and it really helps everyone better allocate their resources and priorities,” says development services director Theresa O’Donnell.

Contractors in search of new explanations for delays might consider buying a pet. “My dog ate it” is as good an excuse as any.

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