ARPA bill earmark will help Marlborough ‘modernize’ permitting process, officials say

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Marlborough Mayor concerned with Phase two of vaccine rollout.MARLBOROUGH – A $190,000 earmark on the state’s $4 billion spending bill will help Marlborough upgrade to a more versatile and publicly accessible permitting software.

State Rep. Danielle Gregoire helped secure the funding and spoke to the Community Advocate late last month about its planned uses.

“It’s going to allow for greater transparency and more public input and more accountability in the city,” Gregoire said.

City to acquire new permitting software

This $190,000 earmark was included in a spending bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Dec. 13. 

The legislation combines funding available through the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) with state surplus dollars to support a variety of programs and projects throughout Massachusetts. Marlborough also will receive another $200,000 earmark to improve broadband access.

The city will use the $190,000 earmark to obtain permitting software produced by OpenGov. Mark Gibbs, the city’s information technology director, said that this software will allow people to do many permits online and use credit cards through the process.

Gibbs said that OpenGov has the market share for permitting in the state, and that contractors who sign up with OpenGov will sign up with all of the towns and cities that use the company.

“So if Joe the builder has an account in Sudbury or Southborough, when they roll out of bed and want to do some permits in Marlborough, they can just log in as themselves and start the permit process,” Gibbs said. “They don’t have to recreate an account or any of that stuff.”

Gregoire, who advocated for the earmarks Marlborough received after speaking with Mayor Arthur Vigeant, said that the new software will be more streamlined and accessible to the general public.

Gregoire added that in permitting for some proposed projects in the past, like the Apex Center, some people in the community had wanted the ability to provide feedback. She said that the new software’s accessibility will allow residents to follow the process and help them provide more accurate feedback. 

“This kind of modernization of the process for the city is going to help them be able to do that in a more efficient way,” Gregoire said.

Separate earmark to support fiber project

Another earmark for $200,000 will go toward infrastructure for improving broadband access in Marlborough.

Gibbs said that Marlborough has been installing fiber connections throughout the city for the radio systems that city departments use.

In addition to improving the speed and technology of the radio system, he said that the new system will create redundancy. 

Gibbs described the current system as like a spoke and wheel centered around City Hall, where if one line goes down, all the ones connected to its other end do as well.

“We’re going to create some loops in Marlborough,” Gibbs said. “If somebody hits a telephone and breaks our fiber connection to the schools, it will take another route somewhere else to come back to City Hall.”

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