Thursday, March 6, 2008
City leaders talk about services, reorganization
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs mayor and board of aldermen revisited some ideas they think could help streamline public service at the February 19 board of aldermen meeting.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry suggested the Planning Commission and Historic Preservation office headed by Felicia Autry be moved to city hall so customers could take care of all their permitting business at one place. The commissioners would also meet in the boardroom at city hall rather than at the offices at Holly Springs Utility Department (HSUD).
DeBerry said customers now have to go to the HSUD office to apply for permits or zoning requests, but then have to go to city hall to pay fees for a permit or discuss a zoning concern.
DeBerry said centralization would be in the interests of the public.
He said that HSUD is trying to build an engineering department. He said code enforcement now handled by individuals scattered in various city departments, could be improved as the new engineering division of HSUD is built.
Currently, building permits and zoning requests are handled at the utility department, all fees are collected at city hall, and the police are in charge of enforcement of certain codes like junk cars and disorderly dogs.
“It would fit with John Collins’ reorganization piece and be more of an administrative move for Autry,” DeBerry said.
Alderman Russell Johnson wanted to know more about who takes responsibility for day-to-day requests for inspections.
“Who is doing housing inspections?” he asked.
“They are now done by the electric, water and sewer components,” said DeBerry, adding that HSUD’s electrical experts handle any code inspections for mechanical/electrical concerns.
“Who inspects the plumbing?” Johnson asked, saying he is concerned about substandard house construction.
“Whether it is a question of zoning or utilities, who better to inspect sewer, water and electric than someone in those departments?” said DeBerry.
Johnson then rattled off a list of concerns relative to new construction.
“Who inspects the footings, the drainage, the plumbing, the construction? These are my concerns,” Johnson said.
DeBerry answered that civil engineers are the ones trained to do all of these inspections.
“Who is going to be responsible for abandoned cars? Junk cars?” Johnson asked.
“We need someone with law enforcement background to enforce these (car and animal) codes,” DeBerry said.
Johnson asked if Autry also enforces the codes.
“She writes letters through Ki (Jones),” DeBerry said, meaning matters that require official letters be sent out.
Johnson said he is approached often about complaints of inconsistency in enforcing the ordinances, citing junk cars as an example.
“We fail to enforce what we have on the books,” DeBerry said. “This piece (Autry’s duties) is working.”
Johnson then argued that the city has only one employee to put in a sewer tap.
“I do not know who inspects slabs,” he said. “John Collins is talking about an engineering service division. So, will we have the capacity to do an inspection to make sure contractors follow the code (building codes)?
“Mayor, we have too many loose ends.”
DeBerry answered he wants to use employees already in place to get inspections done.
“It is nothing for a woman to go out and look at a slab,” alderman Nancy Hutchens added.
Johnson suggested that people be cross trained to do various inspections, adding that engineering graduates may not know how to do a building code inspection.
“A case could be made for either way,” said DeBerry.
“Why, sure,” added Hutchens.
Alderman Tim Liddy asked if Autry and Don Hollingsworth needed to be working together out of the same office since they handle different aspects of the same function.
“I’m trying to use the system already here,” said DeBerry.
“You don’t have to ask permission to move Felicia here,” Liddy said.
DeBerry then explained why he wants the engineering division built at HSUD.
“The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on engineering fees yearly,” he said. “If we had an engineer on site, it would save money just on projects alone. The police chief will see to issuing citations.”
“I’m not concerned about how it’s done,” said Johnson. “I just have a problem of if it is being done. I am not comfortable with the delivery system, not with what is written on paper (written procedures).”
(Editor’s Note: The planning commission office has officially been relocated to city hall, city clerk Belinda McDonald said Tuesday morning.)
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