DPIE Developments Newsletter, Special Edition, Summer 2023

DPIE's 10th Anniversary banner with balloons around words for DPIE Developments

Summer 2023

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DPIE Created 10 Years Ago as a One-Stop Shop for Permitting, Inspections, Code Enforcement and Other Customer Service Needs

DPIE's welcome desk on opening day

The mandate was daunting. Take processes performed by several County agencies, simplify them, then create a new agency to perform them — and do it quickly.

The new agency, which became the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement, DPIE for short, opened on July 1, 2013, at 9400 Peppercorn Place in Largo. DPIE was divided into five public-facing divisions — Permitting and Licensing, Building Plan Review, Inspections, Site/Road Plan Review and Enforcement. Staff were responsible for assisting customers with everything from applying for permits to investigating commercial and residential code violations.

Staffers who were part of the original DPIE team came mainly from what was then the Department of Environmental Resources (DER), the precursor to DPIE and the Department of the Environment (DoE). Some came from the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) and the Health Department.

“I was given a letter by the DPW&T director at the time to come to the new agency — DPIE,” said County Boards and Commissions Administrator Michelle Lyons.

Code Enforcement Officer Ronnie Twine, who worked in Enforcement at DER before moving to DPIE, said the change was easy for him and his colleagues. “It was just a name change for us and a location change because we moved from the old office into the Peppercorn Place building,” he said. “The responsibilities for us, though, stayed pretty much the same.”

Water and Sewer Plan Manager Shirley Branch, who joined the DPIE team in 2016, said creation of the new agency improved customer service. “Probably half of the staff of DER was working on permits, so to put them together with those from other agencies who worked on permits in one place was a positive move for customers,” she said.

Prior to DPIE, services were spread over several locations. Citizens and business owners complained about the difficulty of navigating not only the permitting and licensing processes, but also the number of agencies involved. The implementation of DPIE put everything in one place and streamlined operations. DPIE has improved processes and reduced wait times.

Additional steps have been taken to further reduce the time it takes from permit application to issuance using technology, including the implementation in 2020 of the Momentum online system. Among other advances under Momentum, customers now apply for permits and complete the review and issuance processes virtually. They can print their permits from the comfort of their homes or offices.

There have been several changes over the last decade, many of them precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Social distancing mandates required DPIE’s top management to be creative in ensuring that service delivery would continue. Inspectors from the Enforcement and Inspections Divisions became more mobile, working out of their cars on computers that allowed them to conduct research and file reports virtually. Inspections for some residential construction projects went virtual, allowing residents using tablets and smart phones to work with inspectors to conduct checks remotely. Community meetings and staff trainings for residents and business owners went online.

DPIE was able to continue to serve our customers, our number one responsibility!

For more information about DPIE, visit the agency website at dpie.mypgc.us.

DPIE Opening Day ribbon cutting and first customers to receive a license and a permit

DPIE Grand Opening photos (top to bottom): County officials gather in front of the first-floor Permit Center for the ribbon cutting; The first customer to receive a license (above, left) beams proudly from the Licensing office as the first customer to be issued a permit stands inside the Permit Center.

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DPIE Administrator Named Acting Director

Dawit Abraham Tapped to Helm Agency

Dawit Abraham acknowledges appointment to DPIE as the New Acting Director

Original DPIE top manager Dawit Abraham meets with DPIE staff for the first time as the newly appointed Acting Director.

Dawit and County leaders at the announcement

Announcement from County Executive Alsobrooks:

Mr. Dawit Abraham is a certified Professional Engineer with over four decades of experience and has served in various roles within Prince George’s County Government for nearly 38 years, currently serving as a Deputy Director at the Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE), a position he has held since August 2017.

In his role as a Deputy Director, he supports the DPIE Director in the administration of the agency budget and supporting 308 staff members, giving him direct insight into the day-to-day operations of the agency and the work performed by the various divisions. In addition, his engineering background has allowed him to support the design, permitting, and inspection of several major development projects in the County, to include the Hampton Park Project in Capitol Heights, the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, and the New Carrollton Metro development.

Prior to assuming the role of Deputy Director, Mr. Abraham was an Associate Director at DPIE from July 2013 to August 2017. In this role, he was the lead engineer overseeing major development projects, including the Hotel at the University of Maryland, the Purple Line, and development around the Downtown Largo Metro station. He also supervised the Administrative Services Division, overseeing the agency budget and human resources issues.

Before joining DPIE, Mr. Abraham rose through the ranks of the County’s Department of Public Works & Transportation (DPW&T), serving as Chief of the Construction Regulations Division, Chief of the Engineering and Inspection Services Division, and Associate Director of Engineering. In several of these roles, he was responsible for overseeing the planning, permitting, and construction of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and drainage systems. He was also responsible for conducting inspections and code enforcement of new County transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Abraham obtained his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Iowa and holds a Master of Science in Civil and Structural Engineering from Lehigh University. Mr. Abraham is a certified Professional Engineer, with a current license in both Maryland and Virginia. He is also a member of the County Engineers Association of Maryland, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Abraham will assume the role of Acting Director of DPIE on July 3, 2023. His nomination package to serve as Director will be submitted to the Prince George’s County Council to go through the confirmation process.

Congratulations, Acting Director Abraham!

Collage of photos of DPIE employees congratulating Dawit Abraham on his appointment to Acting Director.

From top: Acting Director Abraham meets with staff during an outside meeting. After the meeting, staff from every division stood in a long line to offer congratulations and hugs to the new leader. During his speech, Associate Director Abraham credited the DPIE staff for working enthusiastically with him on behalf of County residents!

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Message from the Acting Director

DPIE Turns 10!

New DPIE Acting Director Dawit Abraham, seated at desk

I am pleased to serve as Acting Director of DPIE. I have worked at DPIE since its inception and am happy to lend my knowledge and skills to help the agency soar even higher.

DPIE opened with a mandate to make the permitting process easier and more convenient for the County’s residential and business customers. Previously, the processes were located in several agencies in several locations. By the time DPIE welcomed its first customers on July 1, 2013, the DPIE headquarters building at 9400 Peppercorn Place in Largo included offices for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District (PGSCD), the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M–NCPPC) and the Health Department. Today, all those agencies still collaborate under one roof to deliver the most efficient and enthusiastic service possible.

DPIE's 10th anniversary image, graphic of blue and gold balloons, number 10 and confetti

As we commemorate this milestone year, we will have occasional programs to celebrate the anniversary. My staff and I also are making some changes. This newsletter will now be presented quarterly. Please follow us on social media and the website for regular updates. We have rededicated ourselves to partnering with you to ensure your inquiries are quickly resolved. In keeping with that, we have adopted an agency-wide philosophy: “Let’s Get This Done Together!” We have also altered our agency motto. DPIE now stands for “Dynamic, Professional, Innovative and Ethical.” These qualities are among those that define us.

We look forward to continuing to work with and for you. We are committed to serve.

Dawit Abraham's signature block

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DPIE Third-Thursday Community Information Session Slated for 8/17/23 Changed to Evening

The virtual DPIE Third-Thursday Community Information Session slated for Thursday, August 17, 2023, will be held from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., instead of the regularly scheduled time of 11 a.m. – 12 noon. The meeting for August has been moved to allow people who cannot access the daytime meeting to participate. The Third-Thursday community meetings are held the third Thursday of every month on Zoom. They include a brief presentation and an opportunity for residents to ask questions and share concerns directly with DPIE leadership and staff. Advanced registration is required. Once you have registered, you will be able to access all Third-Thursday meetings through November 2024. Email DPIEPIO@co.pg.md.us to submit questions. Call 301-456-6876 for more information.

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Follow Us on Social Media!

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Visit DPIE's website at http://DPIE.mypgc.us.
Follow us on Twitter@PGCountyDPIE
PGCountyDPIE - Facebook
Instagram pgcountydpie and DPIE YouTube
Subscribe to DPIE's newsletters and stay current with what's happening at MyPGC.

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white space thinTimeline of DPIE from inception to 2023

A Decade of Developments

August 2012 – Executive Order signed creating agency to consolidate permitting, licensing, plan review, property maintenance enforcement, inspection and other functions

July 1, 2013 – DPIE launched

August 2018 – DPIE Administrative Hearing Unit hears first code violation case

October 2019 – Business Development Section (BDS) formed to assist businesses with permitting and licensing; DPIE begins administering Short-Term Rentals Program

January 2020 – DPIE begins rolling out updated technology systems to improve services

February 2020 – DPIE begins processing Small Cell Wireless Facilities Permits

March 2020 – DPIE among County buildings closed due to COVID-19; staff begin teleworking; online services increased to assist customers

April 2020 – DPIE begins virtual inspections on limited projects

Summer 2020 – Launch of Momentum, the new County electronic customer service system for permitting, licensing, inspections and enforcement. Phase I commenced with licensing.

June 2020 – DPIE begins issuing Restaurant Temporary Outdoor Seating Area Permits (RTOSA) to expand dining options for citizens during social distancing

February 2021 – Established the Vehicle Charging Station Permit

October 2021 – Established the Aerial Enforcement Program

May 2022 – Started monthly virtual Third-Thursday Community Information Sessions to highlight agency services and allow residential and business customers to interface with DPIE staff

August 2022 – Opened the Virtual Permit Center five days a week for residential customers

March 2023 – New form streamlines the Fence Permit process

July 2023 – Dawit Abraham named Acting Director of DPIE

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DPIE Helps Spur Economic Development — Large and Small

DPIE works to ensure development projects are built according to the highest standards and assists companies interested in building in the County with permitting and licensing processes. Burgeoning economic development increases employment opportunities and tax revenue for the County.

Some of the most significant development projects constructed since DPIE’s inception include:

• MGM National Harbor Resort and Casino, Oxon Hill

• The Hyattsville Arts District

• The University Towers, College Park

• Children’s National Hospital Center, Largo

• University of Maryland Capital Regional Medical Center, Largo

• One Town Center, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, Camp Springs

• PSEG Keys Energy Center, Brandywine

• Kaiser Permanente and Metro offices, New Carrollton

• U.S. Route 1 Corridor development of hotels and multi-family dwellings, College Park

• Purple Line Transit Development (Maryland Department of Transportation)

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Deputy Director LaMont Hinton Works to Infuse New Ideas into DPIE

Deputy Director Hinton at County Council legislative hearing

Deputy Director LaMont Hinton (right) joined the DPIE team in fall 2022. He is responsible for management of the Inspections, Enforcement and Administrative Services divisions. He also supervises the Boards and Commissions, Public Relations/Outreach, Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Performance Management units.

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white space thinDPIE ADs Bellur Ravishankar, Mary Giles, Behdad Kashanian, Val Cary, Yvette Gayles, Acting Ebony Cabbagestalk

(Top row, left) Associate Directors Bellur Ravishankar, Permitting and Licensing and Building Plan Review Divisions; Mary Giles, Site/Road Plan Review Division; Behdad Kashanian, Inspections Division. (Second row, left to right): Val Cary, Enforcement Division; Yvette Gayles, Information Technology Division; and Acting Associate Director Ebony Cabbagestalk, Administrative Services Division.

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DPIE's Associate Directors Oversee Agency Divisions

As DPIE celebrates its 10th anniversary, the agency’s division leaders are looking back at the most significant accomplishments. Some cite DPIE’s role in ensuring safe construction of major projects like the Hyattsville Arts District, the University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Largo and the PSEG Keys Energy Center in Brandywine. Others point to changes in processes that have made permitting and licensing procedures easier for residential and business customers. They all agreed DPIE’s work has helped spur economic growth and improved the standard of living for County residents.

Permitting and Licensing Division Associate Director Bellur Ravishankar cites economic development as DPIE’s top contribution to Prince George’s County. “Through facilitating economic development, DPIE has contributed to employment opportunities, better housing and an improved school system for County residents,” he said. Ravishankar also serves as the Associate Director of the Building Plan Review Division.

Associate Director Mary Giles, who heads the Site/Road Plan Review Division, points to improvements in delivery of permits. “The agency has been part of delivering permits for many important projects and has developed permitting systems, fully automating the customers’ ability to file permits and plans online,” Giles said. “We have updated codes periodically to ensure compliance with State-delegated programs, such as stormwater management, floodplain and water/sewer planning.”

Inspections Division Associate Director Behdad Kashanian cited “the life safety” of County residents and business owners. “We play a critical role in reducing the risk of fire, electrical, and other life safety hazards for citizens,” he said. “Actions like enacting and enforcing building codes and carrying out fire inspections are examples of DPIE efforts that have contributed to the reduction of fires and associated losses in the County.”

Administrative Services Division Acting Associate Director Ebony Cabbagestalk is most impressed with the County’s largest medical facility. “DPIE’s involvement with the University of Maryland Medical Center is a notable contribution to the County. Having a state-of-the-art building in the heart of Largo, Maryland, that is easily accessible, is a major accomplishment,” she said.

Code Enforcement Division Associate Director Val Cary, whose inspectors check hundreds of properties each week, believes DPIE’s efforts are helping to protect the aesthetics of County neighborhoods. “The increased property standards enforcement is directly responsible for lowering the crime rate and improving property values, both of which bolster economic development,” Cary said. “People are drawn to safe, beautiful communities with great amenities, services and schools. Our work directly ties into those things.”

Cabbagestalk agreed. “DPIE’s involvement to ensure the safety of residents, business owners, and visitors is remarkable. I enjoy seeing DPIE function as a team to resolve real challenges that directly impact residents. That is a significant contribution.”

Moving forward, the divisional managers cited improvements in customer service and technology as priorities. "I am excited to be part of an organization committed to continuous improvement," said IT Associate Director Yvette Gayles.

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What do you think are the most significant contributions DPIE has made in the last decade?

Please let us know your thoughts in an email of 50–100 words. The 10th, 100th and 110th people to respond will receive a special DPIE prize. Send your email to DPIEPIO@co.pg.md.us with your response and your name, email address and phone number by Friday, August 11, 2023. You will receive an email confirmation when your email is received.

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P&L's Sue Hall is Among County’s Longest Serving Employees

Sue Hall with reporter Bob Bell and cameraman

Updated from March 2021 edition of Under Construction e-newsletter:

When Sue Hall started working for Prince George’s County Government, motorists listened to disco on 8 tracks, leisure suits were high fashion, the Vietnam War had just ended and "Saturday Night Live" was new on NBC. Stamps cost 10 cents, a gallon of gas set you back a quarter and a loaf of bread ran 35 cents.

Ms. Hall, the mother of two, had been working as an auctioneer for her father in July 1975 when she was hired as an entry-level clerk in the Permits Office of the former Hyattsville-based Department of Environmental Resources (DER).

"You had to drive to WSSC and Park and Planning and all these other places, so you had to have a driver's license and a car before they would hire you," she said.

Nine U.S. presidents and Maryland governors and seven County executives have been elected since Ms. Hall began her career working in permits for Prince George’s. She now works as a Permits Supervisor at DPIE headquarters in Largo.

"People ask me how I stood it all this time," she said, laughing. "I enjoy it. You meet interesting people. The employees have always been very nice and the upper management has always treated me fairly. Why should I go someplace else when I enjoyed working here?"

For 48 years as of July 7, she has been a faithful County permits employee. Her commute is two hours round trip on the days she works in the office. She is known to be on the computer as late as 10 p.m., pushing her 40-hour workweeks many hours over.  When snow events kept less committed colleagues from driving a few miles to work, Ms. Hall braved the inclement weather to get to her desk. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down County offices, she was still eager to come into the Largo headquarters.

"I asked [my supervisor] if I could come in a couple days a week during COVID telework, but she turned me down," Ms. Hall said. "I think they worry about me."

She has no plans to stop working. Her two children have given her nine grandchildren and 23 great-grands. Spending time with family is her favorite pastime.

"I'm not a party goer or one of these people who would get in a car after they retire and go," she said. "I just stay home and enjoy the family. I see these people who retire who don't have hobbies or anything to do. They find themselves getting bored and then the next you know they're sick. Then the next thing you know, they're dead. I enjoy my life. I have no plans to retire."

Technological advances have made the job easier over the decades. Ms. Hall has enjoyed watching the County grow and the role she played in its development. Her commitment stands as an example to her colleagues.

“Sue Hall is an exemplary employee who works diligently to resolve the requests of the customers she assists,” said DPIE Acting Director Dawit Abraham. “We are very thankful to have someone with her experience and enthusiasm as part of the team. She loves her work and we all love working with her on behalf of the citizens of Prince George’s County.”

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white space thinBenjamin Okoro, seated at center, retired with 34 years of service to Prince George's County government.white space thin

DPIE Original Staffer, Inspections Division Inspector Ben Okoro, Celebrated at Retirement Luncheon

DPIE wishes good luck to Inspector Benjamin “Ben” Okoro of the Inspections Division (front row center), who was recently feted by his colleagues at a retirement luncheon after 34 years with the County. Okoro was accompanied by his wife and son. He was presented a plaque and shared a beautiful cake with his coworkers. Several of the staffers who participated in the celebration were among the first members of the DPIE Inspections Division team.

We also offer congratulations and best wishes to Inspector Isaac “Ike” McKevin, who retired after 23 years as a Prince George's County staff member.

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In Case You Missed It. . .

Our June 15 Third-Thursday Community Information Session, “Home Renovation Projects Q&A,” provided a presentation and DPIE experts reviewed requirements for a variety of renovation projects including adding a retaining wall, building a deck, remodeling your kitchen and finishing your basement. The DPIE team explained which projects require a permit (and which ones don’t); the permit application process; scheduling an inspection; accessing information on the agency website; and more! If you missed it, you may view the presentation at Home Renovation Projects Q&A or click the image.

Third Thursday Community Information Session Home Renovation Projects Q&A cover slide image of June's PowerPoint with renovating a basementWhite space

White spaceBusiness Development Section Summer Webinar Series, image of summer items - flip flops, ice cream, fruit, surfboard, etc.White space

Join the Business Development Section (BDS) for a Free Instructional Presentation Every Month This Summer!

BDS is featuring the following webinars on the permitting and licensing process in Prince George’s County. Click on the following link to register:

• August 31, 12:00 noon ― Introduction to the Business Development Section

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Name That Violation Contest!

Name that Violation game banner with bright lights around title

DPIE is holding a monthly contest where we share a photo that contains a property violation of Prince George's County Code. The first person to respond with the correct answer will win one of DPIE's large (13"x10"x15") insulated grocery tote bags with a zipper closure, and your name in next month's Under Construction newsletter.*

*DPIE employees and their family members are not eligible to enter in this promotion.

Carefully study QUIZ PHOTO # 6 below and "Name that Violation" by emailing your best guess to DPIEpio@co.pg.md.us.

This month's photo for Name that Violation game, Quiz Question number 6
Name that Violation game last month's for Quiz Question number 5 - photo with debris and large trash items stored in the yard

There was not a correct submission identifying the violation in photo number 5 (shown at right)
in last month's issue of Under Construction.

The answer is shown in the image below.
(DPIE added the ordinance from County Code.)

County Code cited for the violation in photo number 5 -- Open storage of trash and debris

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