City of Ukiah to bring business license program back in-house

August 9, 2017
Ukiah, CA

By Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal

The city of Ukiah is taking steps to return the processing of business licenses under local control.

“Bringing this back to the city is something that’s been on the public’s mind for quite some time, so I’m glad that this is being brought forward,” said Mayor Jim Brown at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ukiah City Council.

In 2013, the City Council voted unanimously to hire Muniservices to administer its business license program, and almost immediately residents expressed frustration with the change, since the process moved online and well out of county with no in-person customer service.

City staff members told the City Council July 19 that they have been researching options for “bringing it back in-house” and have identified a software program they could deploy locally that is “user-friendly,” provides better customer service and is also affordable.

They said they needed to give Muniservices 90-days notice before ending the contract, and believed they could implement and begin using the new program within three to four months.

“This is just meant to be an update tonight,” said City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, adding that he did not anticipate needing the council’s approval for the process unless difficulties arose in terminating the contract with Muniservices.

In another attempt to improve customer service at City Hall, Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley announced plans to remodel the area where residents pay their utility bills and apply for building permits.

Riley said the work would not be a major reconstruction requiring the removal of walls, but would be changing the layout of the counters and desks to provide more privacy to customers and a more ergonomic workspace for employees.

“These are sometimes very sensitive conversations people are having about the payment of bills, and this would provide more privacy,” said Riley, adding that the changes would also make the area more handicapped-accessible and provide a better area for lines to form.

Riley said the remodel would also add another payment area so residents wanting to pay for permits and other planning-related items could pay their fees after meeting with planning staff rather than having to get in the utility-bill-paying line to conclude their business.

“I’m happy that we’re moving in the direction to provide better customer service for the community, because that’s what we’re here for,” said Council member Maureen Mulheren.

There was no discussion of cost, but the City Council approved staff moving forward with the “solicitation of construction drawings and bidding” for the proposed remodel.

Justine Frederiksen is the UDJ’s senior writer. An experienced reporter, she covers the City of Ukiah including the police and fire beat, as well as education, environment, water and much more. Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Justine on Twitter: @JustFrederiksen.