B-Three Partners with City to Upgrade Code Enforcement

Pittsburgh, PA — During a media event today in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl unveiled the latest product developed by B–Three Solutions and City Information Systems.

Built for the City’s Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI), the new Automated Code Enforcement application enables an inspector in the field to receive an enforcement assignment (often based on a citizen complaint received a few seconds earlier), and then file a report — complete and enforcement–ready — from the field after carrying out the inspection.

According to the City’s September 17 press release, the application “will cut the time it takes for inspectors to process code enforcement violations from four days to one.”

The Code Enforcement application replaces an inefficient paper–based system with custom software developed by B–Three Solutions. The software is installed on handheld computers, which communicate from the field to BBI headquarters via the Remote Data Broker software product, also developed by B–Three.

The new system expands the capabilities of the Mayor’s 311 Service Center, beginning with the almost instantaneous processing of a citizen complaint into an enforcement assignment for an inspector in the field. Reports of violations are transformed into the appropriate citation letters, ready to be printed and mailed to property owners. At each stage in the process, the status of the complaint is updated in the 311 system, so that the individual who submitted the complaint can readily track the City’s handling of the situation.

City residents will see the impact of the new Code Enforcement application almost immediately. Inspectors in Oakland and Garfield will begin using the handheld computers on October 1, and the rest of the inspectors will follow suit in November.

At the end of the year, BBI enforcement data will begin flowing to another B–Three Solutions product, the City’s Disruptive Property Management system, which will monitor all properties in the City for recurring violations. Any property that incurs three violations within a 60–day period will be identified for possible prosecution under the City’s new Disruptive Property ordinance.

All this was accomplished under a single fixed–fee contract between B–Three Solutions and the City of Pittsburgh. Michael Walton, President of B–Three Solutions, explained that the cost–effectiveness of the project stemmed from established relationships and proven technology. “Working once again with City Information Systems, we designed the BBI software to utilize our Remote Data Broker — the same sophisticated wireless technology that has been in operation for the Police Bureau for more than a year. Our developers, who were already familiar with the City’s real estate database, were able to leverage that knowledge and smoothly integrate property ownership data into the Automated Code Enforcement application.”

The BBI Code Enforcement project was managed by Douglas Nesler, B–Three’s Chief Technology Officer. Nesler pointed out an additional aspect of this cost–effective solution: “If the City had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a commercial software package, they would have had to spend thousands more on training their inspectors to switch to the procedures dictated by the commercial package. Instead, by going with a customized system, the City received a solution that is appropriate to Pittsburgh — one that operates along the lines that are familiar to the City’s team of inspectors. This reduces training time and speeds the implementation of the new software.”

With a commercial software package, instructor fees for training classes are above and beyond the costs of the software licenses. In contrast, B–Three’s fixed–fee contract covers all necessary training. Because the City owns the software, there are no licensing costs, user restrictions, or recurring maintenance fees to be paid.

The City’s September 17 press release is accompanied by a photograph of Mayor Ravenstahl phoning in a complaint and watching the assignment appear on the handheld BBI computer.

On the morning of the BBI demonstration, the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette published an article about the new Automated Code Enforcement system.