November 15 – A city operations consultant advises cities to increase their use of technology and increase staffing to meet the needs of their building, planning and code enforcement departments.
"Everywhere we look, there's understaffing and turnover," said David Eisenlohr, managing director of Baker Tilly, a consulting firm hired to conduct operational assessments of these cities and their functions.
The assessment also shows the city has a good land development software system, but underutilizes technology to deliver services and documents more quickly to developers, builders and other customers.
“They have good technology; They're just not using it to its full potential,” Eisenlohr said at Monday night's City Council workshop where he presented the findings and recommendations of an investigation into city operations conducted over the past eight months.
City Manager Nick Edwards said on Monday that the study is the result of feedback from residents and business representatives during Edwards' listening tour three years ago about how cities can improve their environment and development processes. A series of 40 action plans have been drawn up to address emerging concerns about the state of the city, such as: B. Environmental and housing degradation, as well as emerging problems in urban services.
"This research is an excellent foundation for improving the organization and responding to community needs," Edwards said.
Eisenlohr said part of the research looked at best practices in other cities and found that city officials were using many of them. But an in-depth review found it may be necessary to process building permits, conduct building inspections, review site plans for development plans and compliance, and hire about 20 additional employees in the property investigation and enforcement departments and trouble set.
"We were asked to look at all building department operations and all operations that have to go through a permit, including property maintenance and upkeep," Eisenlohr said. "It's considered a robust best practice. You do it occasionally to seek independent information or to validate what you're doing."
In addition to gathering information on best practices, the Baker Tilly team also examined the municipality's organizational structure, compared operations with six other regional cities, and then conducted interviews and focus groups with builders, developers, estate agents, architects, engineers. and an economic development consultant who did business in the city.
"We heard early in the interview that we said no to one person when they were asked if there were enough people in town," said Eisenlohr. “We selected cities to collect staffing data and to do this for direct comparison we looked at the demographics and workload of departments and activities across cities.
Joplin owns fewer homes than its peers, but its staff inspects more buildings, reviews schedules and deals with more law enforcement issues. “Joplin does a lot more work than comparable cities,” Eisenlohr said. “Casting is a real challenge.
"Currently the building plan has been released for 12 to 15 days due to the lack of workers. They promised the developers 10 days to change the plan and maybe 12 to 15 days."
It is not possible to fund and hire 20 new staff at once, advisers said, but the board could consider how to allocate resources to new positions over time.
The council should also work with city officials to establish procedures for prioritizing neighborhoods that need the most attention due to code violations, according to the recommendation.
A review of city data showed that 80% of code violations come from 20% of neighborhoods, he said, "and that kind of data should be the city's priority for law enforcement."
After presenting the report, the city manager said, "The recommendations are significant. Some are easy, some are difficult. I know the board will have strong feelings."
Mayor Pro Tem Keenan Cortez asked if Joplin shared common problems with other cities, such as bad weather.
"I think you're going to see a lot of communities dealing with this problem and it's destroying the environment," Eisenlohr said.
Councilman Chuck Copple said the report shows city officials need to make improvements to the city's website to provide information and provide payments and other business functions. "It demonstrates some untapped resources that could be used to better serve residents and developers."
Councilman Phil Stinnett said city officials discussed many of the issues raised in the assessment. "They exposed some of our problems and we know we have them. The money will solve a lot of those problems. What it does for me as an individual board member … is zero to start the fire and how to move forward. .give him the opportunity
Eisenlohr said the draft report will be revised with comments, corrections and additional information from city and council officials, and then a final version will be issued.
The city manager said the details of the report and its recommendations will be discussed at a future meeting.