Building Department Solutions for Macon-Bibb Georgia
How a 30-Day Assessment and Process Realignment Plan Improved a Stressed Building Department
Understanding four areas of opportunity for improving the Macon-Bibb Building Department
In April 2019, Macon-Bibb County contracted with SAFEbuilt to initiate a Building Department Evaluation. The evaluation provided significant insights into employee morale, teamwork, customer service, and even signage directing visitors to the Business Development Services Department withing the building.
SAFEbuilt determined the County had four areas of opportunity for improving their Department: technology, staffing levels, customer service approach, and training. Implementing the right technology, effectively managing staffing levels, delivering a successful customer satisfaction approach, and offering proper staff training can lead to improved employee morale and decreased customer complaints. Jurisdictions operate more efficiently when the staff and community members have trust and respect for one another. It is these relationships that create powerful partnerships, customer longevity, and the capability for change.
SAFEbuilt’s process Realignment Implementation Plan began in September 2019 to implement findings from the July 2019 full evaluation report. Front counter employee support, Inspector staffing levels, and plan review process recommendations were initiated. Subsequently, a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for Building Department Administration was initiated in December 2019. The RFP process was completed with SAFEbuilt and Macon-Bibb County entering into a Public Services Agreement (PSA) approved and signed March 5, 2020. By looking for ways to improve the County’s department processes and create efficiencies, SAFEbuilt helped bolster employee and customer satisfaction and increase construction progress. The following solutions were recommended to the County.
SAFEbuilt recommended a separation of the Building and Code Enforcement Departments from the Business Licensing Department to provide greater efficiency. The Building Division was outsourced through a Percentage of Fee contract and included a reorganized Leadership team: Building Official, Permit Coordinator, Deputy I Plans Examiner to review plans and oversee Inspection staff, and Code Enforcement Supervisor.
In addition to the updated structure, the Fee Schedule was updated for HB 493 compliance. Salaries were assessed to be competitive and foster employee retainment.
Finally, training for each position was implemented and procured, which included the purchase of study materials, reimbursable exam fees upon proof of certification, and an in-house training program for Combination Inspectors.
With the County’s current building activity, their existing staffing levels did not meet industry standards for delivering quality customer services, as well as providing a working atmosphere to foster a high level of end-user safety. In addition, the current staffing levels for “Inspections per Inspector per Day” far exceeded industry standards.
SAFEbuilt proposed a reorganization of the Business Development Services Department to include a separate Building Division to include: a Building Official, a Deputy Building Official/ Plans Examiner, five (5) Combination Inspectors, Permit Coordinator and Permit Technician. An Action Plan was also created to ensure the proposed staffing levels long-term.
In order to implement a more user-friendly permitting center, a display system was installed, allowing for a space to adequately perform application completeness checks. In order to ensure customer satisfaction, a customer survey program was developed and implemented to assist in understanding the application process from the customer’s point of view.
Additional applications included a phone call log system, intake checklists, a fully electronic applications required and record system, as well as Standard Operating Procedures. Training was provided for all front counter employees.
Checklists were developed and implemented to include adequate project scope of work, process alignment and calibration. Additionally, a standard plan review format and turnaround time were put in place, and Fire Prevention was included in the plan review process. The Department was given goals to aid in data entry accuracy and accessibility. Finally, Key Performance Indicators (KPls) were developed for the plan review process.
Similar to plan review, the inspection process was given an overhaul. Inspection routing and scheduling were standardized to include a mandate of the use of the System of Record (New World) by all Building Department Services staff. SAFEbuilt’s proprietary software, CommunityCore, was implemented and utilized by all trained staff. Fire Prevention was also permitted to conduct their required inspections throughout the process. And the use of technology for field inspections provided.
As part of SAFEbuilt’s proposed solution, reporting was an important focus. Reports were developed to enable management of real time information, including performance standards and identifying additional resources needed to deliver required service.
Reporting processes were implemented on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis to include: permit applications, permit issuance, plan reviews received and completed, inspections completed and identified pass/fail ratios, revenue received for permits/plan reviews/re-inspections, and number of permit applications and plan reviews that have not been issued/ performed within the required timeframes.
In an effort to increase employee engagement weekly meetings to disseminate information were proposed as part of the SAFEbuilt solution. Employees were engaged for future training needs, and alignment of core values to the Macon-Bibb County Vision Statement were developed.
The proposed and enacted changes have proven beneficial for the County. Staffing levels have adjusted to meet workloads. Front counter staff have been trained, and Standard Operating Procedures have been implemented. In addition to the implementation of CommunityCore, which is being utilized for Electronic Plan Review, turnaround times have decreased from 30 days to ten (10) for light commercial and 15 for heavy commercial. Complaints have been reduced, and a training program is currently in place and includes training single trade Inspectors to become Combination Inspectors. Through a successful plan that included new technology, improved processes, and the opportunity for training and recognition, staff morale has improved, and the Building Division is running more efficiently.