City redesigns planning operations | News | The Press and Standard

by | July 28, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: July 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

Walterboro’s Planning and Codes Department has been transformed into the Planning and Development Department.
“This may sound like a minor change in wording,” Assistant City Manager Hank Amundson said, “but it signifies a major change in operational focus.”
The newly-reformed department will focus on helping residents and business owners build and improve property in the city.
Through the consolidation of departments, the addition of Amundson as assistant city manager and a partnership with SAFEbuilt, a major national building services company, the city seeks to elevate its level of expertise, streamline its permitting and inspection services and place a major focus on customer service.
“We can, in fact, ensure safe construction and quality work and be friendly to our customers. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive. We are determined to accomplish both,” said Amundson, who will lead the Planning and Development Department.
“We are creating an environment of helping not hindering. SAFEbuilt shares this view and will be a valuable partner in getting this done,” Amundson added.
“SAFEbuilt serves hundreds of cities and counties around the country and brings a level of knowledge, experience, and understanding that is needed to move Walterboro forward,” said City Manager Jeff Molinari.
“SAFEbuilt has experience in all areas of construction, from new homes and commercial complexes to renovations, additions, and even working in the delicate world of National Historic Districts,” said Stuart Dodson of SAFEbuilt.
This expertise, together with a new approach in the office, will demonstrate that the Planning and Development Department is here to help and is truly business friendly. Changes include streamlined forms, shorter timelines due to new procedures, and access to the vast network of experts in the SAFEbuilt network. “We have contracted with the entire company, not just a building official,” Amundson suggests.
Amundson said, “We have already seen our building official Robin Fowler, a SAFEbuilt employee, utilize the other experts at SAFEbuilt to help provide solutions for projects that previously would have been held up or not allowed to proceed.”
SAFEbuilt will have a base framework of being present on Tuesdays and Thursdays to handle basic code and permitting work.
But, it is important to note that this is only a starting point, Amundson said. SAFEbuilt employees will be available to quickly tackle large jobs, emergencies, and timeline sensitive requests when the need arises.
“Communication is the key,” Amundson explained. “This new department is set up to be more communicative and focused on the customer.”
City employees Bonnie Ross and Gloria Lynah will continue to be the first point of contact for those coming to City Hall to begin the permitting process. Amundson added that plans are being formulated to implement on-line permitting.
Contracting with SAFEbuilt, Amundson said, may turn out to be more cost effective that having city employees staff the operations. He points out that the payment to SAFEbuilt will be based on the number of permits the company handles for the city.
To learn more, call 843-782-1004 to speak with Amundson. Questions can also be emailed to him at hankamundson@walterborosc.org.

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