Keith Hall, chairman of the joint planning committee formed a year ago to look into merging the city and county planning operations, updated commissioners on the group’s work during Monday night’s work session at the Courthouse.
Hall reported the committee has found it is not in the best interest of the county to merge departments. However, having the city and county planning and inspection departments in one building would help each department know what the other is doing. The committee also recommended the county take over septic inspections that are currently done by the state. Commissioner Howard Thompson agreed with the committee’s recommendation, saying this idea had been discussed before.
“That’s something I think we need to look seriously at because of the service part of it. I think the county could do a lot better job,” Thompson said.
Commissioner Brian Smith asked about the manpower needed to take over septic inspections from the state. Commissioner Lisa Stanberry mentioned an incident where a resident worked on getting a permit for more than five months in which the county stepped in and assisted.
The committee also found that neither the county nor the city have the space to have both staffs in a central location.
Chairman Louie Alford said this will continue to be discussed.
During his report, County Mayor Gary Davis said the committee’s report did not give new information, but provided “justification for what we knew we needed to do anyway.”
Davis commented that both the city and county are open to the idea of moving the departments, but space and cost are the main issues.
“If we did it right we need another location ... the bad thing about that is we are not looking for additional cost,” Davis said.
The mayor said keeping the subject open may help to bring a solution.
“If you had storm water, septic inspections, building inspections and planning all in one building for both city and county, that would be the ideal thing,” Davis said.
The mayor’s report also addressed the issue of taking over the septic inspections, stressing that it would need to be self-supporting.
Alford asked for more specifics about staff and space.
Hall mentioned cross-training clerks; however, Davis said no positions could be eliminated by moving to a central location.
Davis said cost-savings data doesn’t warrant moving forward, but stressed keeping the idea open. The mayor commented that growth in the city and county in the next few years warrents a better set-up, so he hopes a solution can be found.