Supes want better service from planning department
Saying he knew of an instance where the department required iron pipe when the building code only called for plastic pipe, Keefer said,
“We should not be writing our own rules.”
He said the department needs to enforce the building codes as written and issue permits in a timely manner. Keefer also said members of the public complain of calls not returned or being “told one thing one day; then two days later, they’re told something else.”
“The majority of employees in the whole community development department are doing an outstanding job,” Keefer said. “But, it’s always those few who will create the most problems for you.”
Some problems have continued for eight years or more, he said. District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson said the applicants are at fault as often as staff.
Board members may feel they receive a lot of complaints, said County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen.
“Quite frankly, after having worked in at least four different counties and two cities, that’s not unusual,” he said.
Controversy often arises because people in rural areas “resent being told what they can do with their private property,” Ketelsen added.
“In Lassen County, it seems each and every disagreement is taken directly to one or more Board of Supervisors member,” Ketelsen wrote in his report to the board. “Although this keeps the board in direct contact with such ground-level matters, it is not a system which is conducive to gathering the objective facts on both sides of a disagreement.”
Because of a general hunger for development, Ketelsen said he senses a tendency “to accept pretty much any development, assuming that the rudiments are there, without doing a great deal of in-depth planning and analysis.”
Ketelsen proposed reactivating an appeals board made up of professional who deal with building codes all the time to hear disputes. He encouraged the board to clarify how it wants the department to process applications and enforce codes “so there’s a consistent understanding of how it’s supposed to be done and what the expectations are.”
Ketelsen also told the board restructuring the department was almost sure to involve spending more money and hiring more people. If the board wants to restructure, he recommended waiting until he leaves at the end of December so that the new CAO is involved in the restructuring process.
When Lassen County Community Development Director Conrad Montgomery started work on March 26, two senior planners, Rick Simon and Kent Hector, had recently resigned. An assistant planner position and four out of five positions in economic development remain vacant.
Montgomery said it’s easy to recruit people just out of college to come to Lassen County. It’s much more difficult, however, to recruit experienced planners.
“I think we’ve recruited three times for senior planner. We get zero,” Montgomery said. “Nobody out there is coming forward. What we’re having to do is to train people.”
He proposed an objective, third-party review of the department’s organization, personnel and administration by Zucker Systems, of San Diego. The board directed Montgomery to bring Zucker’s $35,000 proposal back for consideration at a future meeting.
Current staff members told the board there’s no point in doing the study if the board is not willing to do what the consultant recommends.
Keefer suggested Zucker randomly select and interview 10 percent of those who applied for permits in the last year to find out how satisfied they were with the community development department’s services.
The board is scheduled to discuss reorganizing the public works department at 1 p.m. today, Tuesday, Oct. 9, during its regular meeting.
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