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Mayor plans revote on $430K for one-stop permit center
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Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford gets an earful about how frustrating it is to get a building permit at City Hall.

The people who complain the most aren’t developers. They’re homeowners and small businessmen who can’t understand why it takes so long to get permits for everything from a swimming pool to remodeling to adding patio covers.

The bulk of the 2,000 permits for building projects Manteca issues annually aren’t for developers but people the mayor refers to as “the little guys.”

“That’s what the one-stop permit center is about,” Weatherford said.

The City Council last week deadlocked 2-2 on whether to proceed with the one-stop permit center. Weatherford was absent from the meeting. He plans to have it back before the council for a second vote during the Tuesday, March 3, meeting.

Council members Vince Hernandez and Debby Moorhead both voted against proceeding because they felt the perception of spending money – even if it wasn’t general fund revenue – would not look good especially when they are asking city employees to take pay cuts.

Moorhead, who led the charge for a one-stop permit center as Manteca Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer before her election in November to the council said that, “it’s not the building that makes it work. It’s the policies and people.”

Moorhead questioned staff if plans would still be sent out for additional checks for certain engineering and when she was told they still would she said it didn’t make sense to spend money to put a one-permit center in if it didn’t reduce the need to pay consultants.

Weatherford noted that staff has indicated that the bulk of the permits that Manteca residents and businessmen need are done in-house. By having all of the staff from various departments that are required to sign off on permits in one place, it would speed up the approval process. Currently public works and the fire department – to key components of the approval process for virtually every permit requested – are at other locations.
Weatherford said he wasn’t wild about the original $1.3 million price tag but is more comfortable with the reengineered plan to accomplish the one-stop goals for $430,000.

One-stop reduces delays for Manteca residents
The mayor said the one-permit center is about improving service which reduces delays for residents, businessmen, and developers and in turn saves everyone money. He also said it makes sense to do the project when construction costs and lease costs are lower. The plan involves moving administrative services off site to a Cherry Lane office complex that now houses the city’s informational technology division.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton has indicated that once all needed personnel are in one location the process can be streamlined and eventually reduce existing staff or at the very least give the city the ability to handle more work with less people as the workload picks up.

Community Development Director Mark Nelson noted the permit activity hasn’t actually dropped off. While there are less new homes being built, commercial activity – which has more complicated plans – is up and there are more home repair permits due to work being done on foreclosures to prepare them for sale or after they have been bought.

The proposal that involves spending $430,000 modifying the Community Development Department to accommodate a one-stop permit center, moving the Administrative Services Division into leased space, and relocating the city manager/city clerk operations.

The staff proposes using bonus bucks – discretionary funds paid by developers per home to secure residential sewer allocation certainty – to pay for the project. No general fund money is being touched. The general fund – which runs day-to-day government operations such as police, fire, streets, and parks – is expected to end the fiscal year that starts July 1 with an $11.3 million deficit based on spending and revenue trends examined in December. The City Council has already taken steps that will cut that projected deficit in half.

The bonus bucks in the past have been used to help balance the general fund.

The one-stop permit center is designed to mirror similar operations in Roseville, Sacramento and West Sacramento that has significantly reduced citizen frustration and substantially reduced processing time for projects ranging from home improvements to new retail centers. The city has already changed procedures that have reduced the permit process time for things such as a swimming pool by weeks allowing them to be processed in days instead.

The remodel will put police, fire and public works personnel in the one-stop permit center to allow the analyzing of plans and specifications quickly. Currently, plans are ferried from one department to another. It adds substantial time and creates potential problems. For example, if the fire marshal sees a design problem that creates a problem for fire safety, public works and other department personnel can be brought into the loop immediately. Now, the plans have to be re-circulated from department to department.

In most permits residents would get, all of the work needed to be done can be accomplished while they’re sitting at work stations with trained city personnel as well as the paying of necessary fees.

The initial proposal called for purchasing a modular building. It has now been dropped from the proposal and necessary space picked up by shifting administrative services off the Civic Center campus.

One-stop permit center could be ready by July 1
The construction inside the Community Development Department will now cost $235,000. The remodeling of the existing administrative services building to accommodate the city manager and city clerk operations will cost $25,000.
Community Development will locate five staff members at five work stations in the existing city manager and city clerk offices.

The administrative services will move off site into leased space at 302 Cherry Lane. It is where the information technology division has been located in 2,500 square feet in October 2007. It is in easy walking distance and is kitty corner across the street from the Manteca Senior Center.

The city is leasing 1,800 additional square feet in the building for administrative services on a five year lease costing $117,000.

The information technology space is being leased for $1.50 per square foot. The city was able to renegotiate that lease downward to match the $1.30 rate the city secured for the additional square footage. Westside Office Partners made the adjustment in recognition of the current depressed office rental market. There is a 3 percent annual escalation in the contract.

Another $30,000 will be spent on furnishings for the administrative services.

If the council proceeds, bids will be received March 25 and awarded in mid-April. The move to the Cherry Lane office space for administrative service s that includes human resources would take place by April 15. The remodeling for the one-stop center would be completed by June 15 allowing operations to start July 1.