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The Stockton City Council recently voted unanimously to approve a contract that will create a customer service portal to assist residents on home improvement projects and starting a business.

City officials said the decision tree software project intends to minimize the time staff spends answering repetitive questions and eliminate some of the roadblocks residents face when trying to start a business or home project.

The contract will be with Open Counter Enterprises Inc., which will implement and maintain the portal for up to five years. The amount of the contract was $636,938.

Challenges some people face when beginning their projects are understanding the language used in the Stockton Municipal Code when trying to obtain a permit or license, information being spread out across different websites, needing specific information for their intended project location and only being able to have their questions answered by staff during certain business hours.

An overview of how the Open Counter permitting and licensing portal works. (View courtesy of Open Counter/YouTube)

The portal will have English and Spanish options available.

According to city officials the way the portal will work is that users first identify the type of project they are looking for, then proceed to identify their intended location by inputting the address into the portal.

After completing those two steps, people will then answer a 5-to-10-minute questionnaire.

In the end, users will get a downloadable summary that includes all licenses, permits, prerequisites and fee estimates needed for the proposed project. Links to the necessary documents and requirements will also be detailed in the summary.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.