Department consolidation makes sense, may just be the start

City Manager Tom Barry’s call for a restructuring of the planning department makes good sense and could very well be just the beginning of additional consolidation in city hall in the year ahead.

Barry is recommending creating a new department head position for a community development director, replacing the existing position of planning director. The city has been without a planning director since the resignation of Robert Davis in December.

The community development director would oversee four staff positions in the planning department and 10 positions in the building inspection division, now part of the city engineering department. The building inspector would continue to play a supervisory role within that division.

The proposed plan places similar services under “one roof,” and, according to Barry would provide better oversight and accountability, greater responsiveness to community concerns, a one-stop shop for services, improved management and accountability, better cross communication and a more holistic view of the development process. He also said it would improve recruitment for a director to have position of greater management responsibility.

There would be no budget impact for the change.

Barry has promised a more streamlined and responsive city hall and on paper, this plan would seem to deliver just that. Previously, business operators have complained of confusion and conflict when it came to interacting with city hall. This move should eliminate some of that inconsistency, mixed messaging and fiefdom mentality.

Hopefully, there are other opportunities for the city to streamline service delivery.

In the meantime, this proposal warrants full consideration.