Eating crow

A conversation with Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) begins when I fax in a typed, signed building permit application to repair the roof on the shed. The application clearly states the scope:

Repair roof on non-attached storage shed (Inspector <name> said we needed to pull a permit for this).  The contract cost is stated as $350, the category checked is roof repair; the size is 10 x 12.

I receive an email:

Hello,
I require some more information.  What is the scope of work?  What is the repair?  How many squares?
What is the contract value of the work to be done?
I look forward to hearing from you,
<name>

I thought I had stated this clearly, but I reply:

Hi <name>, sorry, I thought I had everything there.
The contract value is $350. The scope of work is to repair the roof (asphalt shingle) of a shed. It has a couple of leaks and we would like to be able to store things like garden tools in it is all. I don’t know what how many squares means?
Thanks, Beth

In return, I receive:

are you reroofing the shed? How big is it? and how many year comp shingle will you be putting on if it is a reroof.  Will you be removing the existing shingles?

After this exchange I begin to doubt my competence as a professional communicator, but, hoping for the best, I reply:

Hi <name>, the shed is about 10 x 12. We are not removing anything, just going right over the top with 30-year shingles where it needs patching. Best, B

My phone rings. It’s a very nice person from Sonoma PRMD, who, amazingly enough, has called ME to help me through the process and short-circuit our frustrating email exchange. She explains patiently that it actually really matters how big the shed is, because 10 x 12 is the dividing line: under it, you don’t even need a permit. At it, or above, you do, and the cost is based on the exact number of square feet. It turns out it’s actually 11 x 15 – who knew? This very nice person does not hold my initial (cavalier) estimate against me. She also helps me negotiate the twists and turns of getting a permit online (even though we are not supposed to, because we have an open code enforcement issue), thus saving me an early morning drive to Santa Rosa. She is wonderful. The permit is cheap, and issued quickly. I am grateful for the help, and settle down to a meal of crow, during which I ponder the following conundrum: how can dealing with the permit and resource management department be so frustrating and so humbling, all at the same time?

Shed with new roof
All done!

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