Thurston County needs to exit the Stone Age

And they estimate it won't happen until 2026


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.

Come again?

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. 


4 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • pheong

    well, they can't even keep major roads plowed, so what do you expect. love the way that the plows leave a few inches of snow to be packed into an ice mass, and your taxes continually increase for what?

    Monday, February 6 Report this

  • PastWoke

    Hey Mr Kirby, considering the fact that you think that anyone over 75 is stuck in the stone age, how about telling all the folks out here that still use checks; what the name of your businesses are, so that WE will not bother spending any of OUR stoneage cash at any of your businesses.

    By the way, I know several business owners here in the county and not one of them belive you can do business without using a checkbook. You might want to look at your own business model rather that complaining about an issue that works for 99.99% of business owners in Thurston County.

    Bet your the same guy who complains about paying the credit card convenience charge. There's a way to get around that fee, it's called a business check. Oh, I forgot, your not old enough to know how to work the keys.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this

  • ejpoleii

    1. One can pay one's property taxes online. Check out the treasurer's website.

    2. I'm 76. I have checks but almost never use them. I'm not sure where the hitch is but, if TC can process property tax payments online, there is no good reason not to be able to pay for ANYTHING online.

    3. I'm not offended by the comment about age. It is a mild enough analogy. Of course, I'm actually partly responsible for the digital revolution so there's that.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this

  • TroyKirby

    Dear PastWoke, the above column was about a business-to-municipality issue. It has nothing to do with business to customers. It's about being able to pay for online renewal of a health permit. I also paid the $4 credit card transaction fee without any issue when I did the phone call for the renewal, I just don't feel I should have to make a phone call. Frankly, I'd rather hold an unpinned grenade rather than be forced to call 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get someone on the horn to process my transaction which could be done online 24/7.

    Tuesday, February 7 Report this