Best Practices

Mayor Norm Coleman

One-Stop Shopping for Licenses and Permits

St. Paul's Office of License and Inspections was created in 1992 to bring together in one organization all the various business inspection functions to create a "one-stop shop" which would cater to most of the permitting and licensing needs of the business community.

"One-stop shopping" is meant to imply the centralized, coordinated, and uniform provision of government services, designed to improve customer access and convenience. Efforts to achieve this goal, unfortunately, often stop at reorganizing. The assumption is that locating services and workers under one roof will simplify access and enhance service. However, reorganizing is often not enough; procedural barriers can also greatly hamper simplified service delivery. For instance, even though a person now may come to one location to receive needed services, he or she may find that it still means talking to a number of people in different areas, each with different regulations, fees, ways of doing business, and duplicative but inconsistent paperwork. The services may be under one roof but still seem fragmented and confusing to the end user.

Achieving the goal of improved, coordinated, and uniform service delivery requires an in-depth look at what currently prevents such coordination. The physical location and layout of the workers is only one barrier for customers; the procedural barriers can be just as frustrating. Process Redesign is an approach that is consistent with, and flows from, the philosophy of TQI, but is much more intensive and in-depth in approach. It asks those who do the work to determine how processes should be simplified and improved, but it does so in a quantum leap from the status quo.

Although LIEP's Process Redesign effort is not complete, a number of significant accomplishments have been completed, including 48-hour turn-around, bar-coded invoices, credit card payment, the installation of a new single-service counter, and the designation of a single point of contact for customers. That point of contact is a special project facilitator who has the experience and authority to cut through "red tape" and provide answer to the customer on every aspect of the project from start to finish.

Contact: Robert Kessler, (612) 646-5607.


Fire and Safety Public-Private Partnerships

Ambulance Billing System: Several years ago, the Saint Paul Department of Fire & Safety Services expanded its contract with a private company providing an ambulance transport billing service. In addition to increasing the scope of the service, the company now serves as the department's consultant in complicated billing issues, including those involving insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). As a result, the City of Saint Paul now enjoys one of the highest reimbursement rates in the country. Collections from ambulance transport fees, without creating any hardships for the people served, have increased from a 35 percent rate to 90 percent. Net revenues to the city's general fund are expected to exceed $5 million in 1995.

Paramedic Training Program: The Department of Fire & Safety Services, working with its medical directors and a local community college, has developed a partnership that is expected to save over $50,000 in 1996 training costs. Rather than training paramedics at the local unaccredited medical control hospital (as has been done for the last 22 years), students will now receive their training at Inver Hills Community College. In addition to the cost savings, the training is accredited and the fire-fighter students will earn over half the credits necessary for a two year Emergency Health Services degree. The college has also benefitted from the relationship by appointing eight experienced paramedic fire captains to affiliate faculty positions. As faculty members, utilizing the department's Advanced Life Support Ambulance System, they provide valuable internships for many of the area's prospective paramedic students.

"Fire Wise" Program: The Department recently won the prestigious Rolf Jensen Partnership in Public Education Award from the National Fire Protection Association for its partnership with the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The program is called "Fire Wise," and it provides fire safety education for seniors who are visited in their homes by Red Cross volunteers. The fire department provides free smoke detectors and installs them. Since seniors are among the most vulnerable to fire death and injury, this is a program that focuses on a real fire problem in the Saint Paul community.

Combined Fire and Housing Inspections for Certificate of Occupancy Renewal: The City of Saint Paul combined housing inspections and fire inspections for the periodic renewal of Certificates of Occupancy for buildings. The cycle is one year for high-hazard occupancies and two years for all others. The inspections are done by the fire department where inspectors are cross-trained in fire, housing, and building code requirements. The redundancy of separate inspections was eliminated by this efficiency. A fee is charged for this inspection that returns 40 percent of the cost of the combined inspection program to the general fund.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (612) 266-8510


Southeast Asian Food Handler Training Initiative

The Southeast Asian food handler training initiative was initiated to improve communication and customer service with the large contingent of Southeast Asian food establishments in St. Paul. The initiative was developed after a distinct communication problem with this group of licensees was identified. It was developed by the Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection (LIEP) staff and the City Cable Office, with funding from the St. Paul Foundation. The main thrust of the training is a video tape of safe food handling guidelines translated into Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese and English. To complement the video all of LIEP's pertinent documents dealing with food establishments have been translated into Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese. To augment the customer service with this group of licensees, interpreters have been made available to help these licensees through LIEP's processes. LIEP's inspectors have also been given diversity training to help enhance communication.

It is the hope of LIEP that when this program is fully implemented, a real, tangible improvement in communication with this group of licensees is realized. There are several citywide programs that will benefit from this training initiative, including the Hmong Soccer Festival, Taste of Minnesota, and LIEP's own food inspection program. It is also the hope of LIEP that this program, being one of the first of its kind in the entire nation, will be able to mature and grow in order to offer solutions to other defined problems of cultural diversity in the city and elsewhere.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (612) 266-8510


Alcohol Awareness Training

In an effort to reduce the number of alcohol related incidents resulting in personal injury and property loss, the City of Saint Paul, through the LIEP Office, sought proposals from qualified firms to provide alcohol awareness training and follow-up compliance checks for licensed liquor establishments. The city selected the proposal submitted by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which was the same organization that pioneered the training several years earlier.

The curriculum involves four hours of server training including information on the legal responsibilities and consequences for individuals employed in the liquor service industry. How to identify and deny service to an obviously intoxicated person, and the procedures required for properly checking for identification to prevent minors from being served, are included. The training is followed up by unannounced compliance checks to make sure that participating establishments are following the guidelines of the program. To entice licensed establishments into participating in the program, the Office of LIEP offered a 7 percent reduction in intoxicating liquor license fees to those who agree to participate in the program.

The initial results of the training show an approximate 50 percent reduction in liquor violations for establishments that chose to participate in the program.

Contact: Robert Kessler, (612) 266-9112

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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