Wed, April 08

County creates new department <br>to oversee, streamline services

Yavapai County supervisors agreed on a major restructuring of departments Friday.

The supervisors created a new Development Services Department and hired Yavapai County Flood Control District Director Ken Spedding as its first director.

The Planning and Building, Environmental Services and Flood Control departments will no longer be departments. They all will be among the potential divisions of the Development Services Department.

As for how the divisions will be structured and named, the supervisors left it up to Spedding and his staff of 71 to make proposals in the near future.

"The entire intent is to improve how we do business," said Supervisor Chip Davis, who first proposed the restructuring idea Monday. "This is one of the biggest changes to happen to the county in a long time."

All the above-mentioned departments get involved when rural citizens are seeking building permits, proposing new subdivisions, etc. Supervisors and County Administrator Jim Holst hope that by putting them under one umbrella, seeking permits will be an easier chore for people.

"We are here to help – not to be bureaucrats or regulators," agreed Spedding, 45, who has worked for the Flood Control District since 1986 and been its director since 1991. He has experience in planning issues as the chairman of the Prescott Valley Planning and Zoning Commission. He plans to resign from that position in light of his new job.

The timing for the new combined department couldn’t be better since the county is just starting to design a new administration building that will sit next to the existing one along Fair Street in Prescott, Holst said. The design can take the new department into account, Holst said, since the department will move there from Marina Street.

"Your opportunity to make changes are greater than ever," Davis told Spedding, interim Planning Director Enalo Lockard and Environmental Services Director Alex Price during a roundtable discussion Friday.

The supervisors spent hours on the free-flowing discussion with the department heads, Holst and Human Resources Director Julie Ayers, throwing out various ideas about department structure, current problems and potential solutions.

One citizen who regularly interacts with the existing departments offered his ideas about problems that need to be resolved.

"People are afraid to complain … for fear it’s going to take longer" to get permit approvals, said Mike Gardner, a private planner from Cottonwood who helps developers with things like site planning, building designs and rezoning applications.

Gardner said he’s faced his biggest permitting problems with the Planning and Building Department’s Building Safety Division, saying it frequently stalls on plan checks. He wondered if the county has enough employees dedicated to the Verde Valley, saying the division contracts with private plan checkers who often are the source of problems. He urged supervisors to treat the Prescott and Verde Valley offices as distinct entities.

The division has a full-time counter employee and plan checker in its Prescott office, but not its Cottonwood office, Lockard said. The department was planning to ask supervisors for more employees next year, he added.

Gardner wondered if former Planning and Building Director Mike Rozycki placed enough emphasis on the building divisions since he was a planner by trade.

When Rozycki resigned in December to move to Colorado, the supervisors interviewed replacements and offered the job to Sahuarita’s planning director, Jim Stahle. But on Monday, when Ayers read them a letter from Stahle that was pushing for Rozycki’s salary (which the county’s original advertised) of $77,600 versus the supervisors’ $70,000 offer, they rescinded the job offer altogether.

"I had some reservations about him anyway, and when I heard the letter, I went, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to go there,’" Supervisor Lorna Street related to Spedding and the others Friday.

When Davis then brought up the reorganization idea, "That just seemed like the natural thing to do," Street said.

The supervisors decided to start Spedding at Rozycki’s salary, amounting to a $8,600 raise, then reward him for good performance.

At the same meeting Friday, the supervisors accepted the resignation of county Parks Director Jim Boyd. They decided the one-year-old experiment with a Parks Department didn’t work, but hope to find Boyd a job elsewhere in the county government, possibly in the Public Works Department. His employees will work for the Facilities Department, which used to oversee parks upkeep.

This is the first time he’s accepted a resignation from an employee who wasn’t leaving under adverse conditions, Davis said.

"We just picked this guy out of the blue and threw him in there," Davis said during the Development Services Department discussion. "Then a year and a half later, we said this is not meeting our vision, although we don’t know what the vision is."

Price said he appreciated hearing that the supervisors won’t set the new department up for failure in a similar fashion.

The supervisors, especially Davis, tried to lay out some of their initial expectations.

"Number one, I want good, friendly, knowledgeable customer service," Davis said.

He also wants good use of resources; extra training for front counter employees; decent turn-around time on permit applications; teamwork; and empathy for the customers.

He asked Spedding to combine clerical duties for increased production, design office space, draw up an organizational chart, show how divisions will share services, review existing planning and zoning ordinances, and create tools that will reveal whether the department is meeting its goals.

The department also is going to have to figure out how to redraft the county’s outdated general plan, Street noted. The state has set a deadline for the end of this year.

Prescott College’s NASA technology can help, Holst said. And encourage staff to offer innovative ideas, Davis said.

Supervisor Gheral Brownlow was succinct in his request for Spedding and his employees.

"Let them figure it out and come back," he said. "We’re not micro-managers."

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