Upon paying for my establishment’s annual health permit, I learned something frankly disturbing but not surprising: All Thurston County health permit renewals must be conducted by hand, including credit card processes.
The county gets flooded with phone calls from businesses attempting to pay their renewals annually. It took me a week to get through to Thurston County Environmental Health to have them take my credit card information over the phone to pay for my permit renewal. My only other option was to bring in a check. (Note: I’m not 75 years old, I don’t have checks, and there is no way in hell that I would ever trust anyone writing a check to me, ever…)
When speaking with the Thurston County Environmental Health contact, who was very gracious with her customer service under the circumstances, I learned that the county itself is completely unprepared to take online health permit renewals in 2023. They want to do it. But their estimation is that it won’t be until 2026. Because it has to build a database, along with the building permit department, to take any online renewal orders.
Thurston County’s business model seems to exist in a bubble where it is perpetually 1993 not 2023. Imagine how far behind the county will be in 2053. Will Thurston County finally catch up to 2023 by then?
This is absurd. We are a county of 300,000, not 300. I believe it is time that we adopt certain technologies now. If that means licensing third-party software simply to take permit renewals now, so be it. We can do that until the database gets built.
The fact that the county cannot process health permit renewals or any permit through an online transaction is absolutely absurd. It speaks to an overall issue of opportunity and compliance cost.
The more barriers that you put in place for someone to pay for something, the less likely they are to actually buy it. The same goes for compliance. If you want people to pay for their permit renewal on time, then you have to make it easy for them to do so.
I recognize that those in power generally do not consider compliance to be an issue. They believe, wrongly, that everyone will simply follow the rules because the rules exist. The opposite is true when you create rules without a way to follow them. After a while, people give up.
Thurston County needs to exit The Stone Age. The internet exists. The technology that enables customers to order and pay for things online exists. The idea that anyone needs to call someone on the phone or put a check in the mail as the only method of payment, is a either a silly form of job protection or, quite simply, blatant misuse of the public good.
Will the people in charge of Thurston County get more offended reading this than get offended by the fact that they do not offer customers the capability to order and pay online, like renewing health permit? If that doesn’t speak to the issue of bureaucracy and the Peter Principle, I don’t know what does.
Troy Kirby, of Lacey, owns several businesses in Thurston County.
The opinions above are, of course, those of the writer and not The JOLT. Got something you want to get off your chest? Write it up and send it to us. We'll likely run it the same day we get it.
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