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One-stop vote of confidence
Manteca moves forward with streamlining permit process
It should be easier to get a building permit in Manteca after July 1 thanks to a $430,000 investment being made by the City Council into a one-stop permit center. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Call it a vote of confidence in Manteca’s future.

Councilman Vince Hernandez and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead reversed their previous stance against proceeding with $430,000 in improvements to create a one-stop permit center citing research they’ve done that shows it will be cost effective, put Manteca on the right track toward streamlining the permit process, and won’t reduce services elsewhere as the city grapples with an impending budget deficit.

“We need to look at (it as) the city building consumer confidence,” Hernandez said Tuesday shortly before a 5-0 vote to approve proceeding with the physical aspects of the one-stop permit center.

Hernandez said if the city has the money to spend on a project with funds that  can’t be used for anything else and to do so in such a manner that it invests in the future of the city that it is important to do so to help rebuild confidence in the economy.

Moorhead, along with Hernandez, each invested considerable time since they voted against the measure two weeks previously researching and grilling city department heads about the one-stop proposal. The 2-2  vote meant the issue was neither approved or rejected paving the way for Mayor Willie Weatherford, who was absent at the Feb. 16 meeting, to bring it back before the council for a second vote.

Moorhead again emphasized that a physical one-stop permit process is useless without policies and procedures in place to make it work.  She led Community Director Mark Nelson through a series of questions that repeated what he shared with her privately when she visited to determine whether it was in the best interest of Manteca to reverse her vote.

Nelson said the department is currently reviewing policies and procedures to make things work and should have a draft ready in 60 days. That would allow the new procedures to be in place before the one-stop permit center is finished.

Nelson also shared how the city is working on software that will allow those processing a permit – with the use of a password – to monitor the progress of their project.

The software also will allow permits for smaller projects that many homeowners have done to be conducted over the Internet and paid for with a credit card.

Hernandez also noted that the money spent is from restricted bonus bucks paid by developers that must go to public facilities improvements but that the council can chose whether to put it. After the $430,000 is spent, the city will still have $2.8 million in the restricted account to spend on public facilities.

Steve DeBrum noted that the city ultimately would secure more revenue by the improved process that would offset the initial costs.

Nelson noted one such savings is by cross-training staff even in the financial department’s operations to eliminate an $85,000 position.

Weatherford emphasized that one of the top complaint she has heard in the past 10 years from private citizens and developers alike is how difficult it is to get a permit from the city. The majority of the 2,000 permit issued are to individuals who are doing home improvements or else have a small business.

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.

The proposal 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 one-stop permit center is designed to mirror similar operations in Roseville, Sacramento and West Sacramento that has significantly reduced have citizen frustration and substantially reduced processing time for projects ranging from home improvements to new retail centers. 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 $1.3 million proposal called for purchasing a modular building and doing other work as well. 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.

Bids are expected by  March 25 and awarded in mid-April. The move to the Cherry Lane office space for administrative services 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.