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Morton County Emergency Program Specialist Cody Mattson

Morton County Emergency Program Specialist Cody Mattson was among a team that formatted permit forms for the county website. 

People seeking a permit, tax refund, board appointment or county job in Morton County can now fill out an application online.

The goal is to make it easier for county residents to apply. Residents have had to drive to the County Courthouse to submit application forms or fill out requests by hand and mail them.

"We offer a solution where they can type it out on their smart device or their desktop computer to allow them to fill out these forms," Morton County Emergency Program Specialist Cody Mattson said. "When they are finished filling out these forms, with a click of a button, they can submit the forms to Morton County." 

Last year, 67 people applied for an approach, or driveway, permit. That's 12 more than in 2017, according to Morton County spokeswoman Maxine Herr. One hundred and four people applied for building permits in 2018, compared to 100 in 2017.

"We have building permits and approach permits come in half a dozen times each month, which has kind of prompted us to shift gears and find out a way to make it easier for our customers," Mattson said.  

The application forms can be found on the Morton County website under "Forms & Permits" on the right tab. To fill out the forms on mobile devices, residents can download two free phone applications — Adobe Acrobat Reader to view forms, and Adobe Fill and Sign to add signatures — both of which are linked on the county website.

Mattson said his team is still developing a way for people to pay application fees online. Residents who don't want to go to the courthouse can still pay by mail. A driveway permit comes with a $50 application fee. The fee for a building permit depends on what is being built and the value of the project.

The county also has added a new software to its website, called OpenGov. The transparency portal enables the public to view five years' worth of county budgets, expenses and vendor payments. The software touts a 30% reduction in inbound public records requests, since it enables people to view the records online, according to Herr.

The online forms were posted June 17, and the OpenGov transparency portal was launched April 23. The county just recently announced them, to provide time to test for errors and to update records, Herr said.

County Commissioner Cody Schulz said the online tools are part of the county's overall efforts to increase efficiency and transparency. 

Schulz has personally experienced having to drive to the county seat to submit a permit application. In April, he drove from New Salem to Mandan to apply for a permit to build a new shop.

"It became very apparent to me that there are efficiencies that we could gain by making some changes," Schulz said. "We've got cities 50 miles away. So we have to do things better and electronically."

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Reach Andy Tsubasa Field at 701-250-8264 or andy.field@bismarcktribune.com.

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City Government Reporter