City Councilor Patrick Murphy asked the Manager to present a 1 year report on the accomplishments and status of the revised Division of Development Services.
The following information is in this week’s City Council Packet which can be found on-line at the City of Lowell Website (Click Here)
I have uploaded the entire 45 Page report as a PDF here: 1 year Report IS
Here is Adam Baacke’s Letter:
As promised, attached is a copy of the one year progress report on the reorganization of various departments which resulted in the creation of the Division of Development Services within the Department of Planning and Development.
Assistant City Manager/DPD Director Adam Baacke and Deputy Director Kendra Amaral will make a presentation of the contents of this report at the October 11th meeting of the Lowell City Council.
For reference, a copy of Rosemary Cashman’s May 2010 report which recommended the reorganization that the Council ultimately endorsed by unanimous vote in June of 2010 has also been included.
A Few of the Highlights:
Inspectional Services Department
Through new management” the function of Inspectional services has made tremendous strides in elevating the professionalism, consistency and follow-through in how it provides service. A great deal of effort has been expended on evaluating existing procedures, policies and internal “culture” revising both activities and attitudes to improve service.
• Staff log their work either through the City’s MUNIS database or on daily log sheets,unexcused absences are monitored and analyzed for abuses, and weekly inspector meetings ensure cases do not linger or otherwise go unresolved.
• Both intra and cross-departmental communication ensures contractors comply with all requirements of the City and that various aspects of projects do not occur without full review.
• Nearly all functions of the building inspectors have been documented with checklists to help ensure consistent and complete inspections, plan reviews, and enforcement activities.
• Historically inconsistent and underperforming functions of the former Inspectional Services Department have been reformed and improved including the sealing of weights and measures, enforcement of the vacant and foreclosing property ordinance, the certificate of inspection process, and determination of legal use of properties among others.
• Due to the changes. Development Services has determined that the Senior Building Inspector is no longer a needed position. Saving the City approximately $12,000 annually.
Inspectional Services -Records
The re-organization report raised concerns about record storage and maintenance as well as forms. Since the re-organization, all Development Services forms have been reviewed and many have been revised and updated both for clarify of information, simplicity, and where found to previously be lacking, unique numbering and other security control measures have been added.
All new activity since the reorganization has been properly documented and filed both in hard copy form where required and in digital form where appropriate. Development Services staff have not yet had much opportunity to improve the storage and management of records from projects that pre-date the re-organization.
However, current staff have frequently observed that files appear to lack evidence of permit and inspection activity which might have been anticipated or follow-up documentation after violations are cited. When time and resources permit, Development Services hopes to undertake a more significant effort to review and improve the management of older records in the office.
The land use boards also maintain substantial records of past actions. In partnership with the Middlesex North Registry of Deed s, DPD has begun a project to scan and digitize these historic records. To date, the approval not required subdivision plans maintained by the Planning Board have all been digitized .
The June 2010 report which recommended the creation of the Development Services Division in the Department of Planning and Development defined a number of real problems and issues,thoughtfully proposed a comprehensive re-organization to lay the groundwork for addressing these problems, and
provided a series of specific recommendations for action steps to be implemented following the immediate reorganization.
The report also stressed the importance of hiring competent and experienced professional staff who would not be biased or burdened by political considerations or relationships in the issuance of permits, review of projects, conduct of inspections and enforcement of codes. DPD’s Development Services office has successfully completed the physical and organizational restructuring recommended in the report.
DPD has successfully hired staff with the desired balance of expertise, professionalism, and temperament to change the culture of inspectional and code enforcement functions and practices in the City of Lowell. This team includes a healthy mix of long-time employees and Lowellians with deep institutional memories and newer hires who bring fresh perspectives and ideas.
This group has already achieved substantial progress in addressing the specific recommendations in the re-organization report as well as initiating a large number of additional improvements to the operations and effectiveness of the Division.
Despite this progress, many significant challenges remain and Development Services looks forward to working with the Lowell City Council and the community at large to continue to address them and help work toward the ambitious ideals envisioned when the Council unanimously approved the re-organization plan last year.