On Tuesday evening, Sean Smith Merritt’s Director of Corporate Services, presented the findings of a business licence review which took place last year in the city of Merritt.
Smith started the presentation with some pretty jarring numbers collected between February 2016 and December 2018.
“The average processing time for business licence application was 21.2 days,” said Smith. “The top 25 percent of application were completed in one day. By the time you get to the 50th percentile took ten days, your bottom 25 percent mark took at least 26 days. And we have some, I kid you not, that took hundreds of days,” said Smith.
“The goal for us was to eliminate the tail entirely. We know there are going to be times where because of inspections, deficiency that need to be remediated, it sometimes can and will take up to 30 days,” said Smith. “I understand those particular situations, I don’t understand when something takes 150 or more days.”
He did mention that some changes to a digital based system has improved wait times. However, Smith was quick to note there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We have now reduced the average processing time on our last 43 applications to 10.7 days. So, we’ve nearly chopped it in half,” said Smith.
Smith then moved into the responses from a recent survey distributed to local business owners.
“I don’t see any positive way to spin this, only 41 percent of people were satisfied with how the City performed in the business Licencing process,” said Smith. “What I’m not okay with is they don’t yet good service.”
“The number one reason was that it was confusing, and it’s hard to find answers. That is really preventable,” said Smith. “A large part of what we are going to deal with in the recommendation section is how we can put out better information to the public.”
In total Smith made 17 recommendations to Council about improving the licencing process. They ranged from bring in intercommunity business licences, to cleaning up the process among office staff and the creation of new shorter-term licences.
For the full list of recommendations – https://www.merritt.ca/city-council/agendas-and-minutes
Click ‘May 21, 2019 Agenda Special Committee of the Whole Meeting’, they’re on pages 62-69 of the document
“What you’re going to see moving forward then, we are going to work on addressing these things and bring forward to council and new business licence bylaw, ideally by late fall. As well as three intercommunity business bylaws. So that we can then start amending all our public materials with enough time to actually roll this out full steam in 2020 for January 1st,” concluded Smith.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt