Carson City’s Building Permit Center the subject of evaluation
December 13, 2005
The Carson City Building Permit Center is working to streamline the permit processes to help reach its well-publicized time goals for approving specific projects.
The concept of the center is to provide a “one-stop shop” for people seeking city permits, said Phil Herrington, the city’s chief building official and permit center manager.
This is why employees come from their offices to the center to talk with applicants, who can drink coffee, watch television or keep abreast of whether their permit has been approved by logging on to a computer in the reception area.
City employees worked with a consultant to outline and streamline the process.
Along the way, they learned how departments other than their own function.
“It was a tremendous educational process for us,” Herrington said. “We wanted to look at ourselves but, to add credibility, it was better to go to a consultant.”
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The department paid $43,000 for the report by Harris & Associates, which found that though all involved in operating the center were “extremely busy,” additional staff isn’t necessary – yet. Core staff members are devoted to the center, but most other employees only spend part of their time on permit applications. When demand outpaces what city staff can do, only then would the addition of a plans examiner be warranted, according to the report.
Though improving the permit process has been ongoing for the past several years, with the center being the most substantial upgrade, there is room for improvement. Some people were still referring to process as a “trip to the black hole,” he said.
“It’s an important job,” Herrington emphasized. “And a balancing act.”
Harris also created flowcharts showing 19 development processes, such as those for residential projects, major commercial projects, lot line adjustments, and water usage and growth management.
The charts will allow residents and business people see how the city’s permit process works.
The center doesn’t receive any money from the city’s general fund. It’s a self-supporting government function. The cost for the report sounds steep but the benefits are worth it, Herrington said.
While the city function exists to protect the public from unsafe buildings and structures, it also must provide those who want to do various projects with accurate, fast advice.
Those that participate in the Building Permit Center are the building, community development, development engineering and utilities, environmental control, fire and health departments.
An array of limited-scope projects can be approved in one day at the Building Permit Center, if there is no involvement of wells or septic tanks. This includes carports, patio covers, minor fire damage repairs and ground floor decks and porches.
The report will be presented to the Carson City Board of Supervisors during its meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
n Contact reporter Terri Harber at email@example.com or call 882-2111, ext. 215.
If you go
WHAT: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting
WHERE: Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Thursday