A New Community Development Department

The special joint meeting between city council members and the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) on Saturday filled in a lot of blanks, even for — or maybe especially for — folks who have reviewed the FY2015 City of DeKalb budget including its excellent Transmittal Letter.

One of the changes proposed by city manager Anne Marie Gaura is to split off community development services from Public Works and place them into their own department. Community Development would then handle and/or oversee the following:

  • Planning & economic development
  • Building services such as code enforcement
  • Community Development Block Grant administration
  • One part of the argument is that Community Development functions are not Public Works core competencies. Splitting them off would allow PW to better concentrate on the budgetary and strategic priority of infrastructure.

    Also there is a track record to consider. As you are probably aware, the city has placed a building supervisor and two building inspectors on administrative leave as it debates their fates vs. the proposed reorganization. From the budgetary Transmittal Letter:

    In the past year, the City has seen a number of very public, very unfortunate business closures and even building collapses. In order to protect public safety, changes in the City’s operations are essential.

    On Saturday it came out (during the Workers Comp discussion, actually) that the police officer who was injured by falling through the floor of the old Wurlitzer building may remain permanently disabled.

    Not horrifying as the above story but still problematic is the news that our contracted guru for retail development, Roger Hopkins, has had to remove himself from projects because of potential conflicts of interest; one FAC member commented that such conflicts are rampant and must be addressed. Under the budget proposal, Hopkins’ functions would be brought in-house, where restrictions on employees’ outside activities would presumably shrink the possibilities for conflicts.

    Forgoing the renewal of Hopkins’ contract also would provide an offset to help pay the costs of the department, as would eliminating the contract for the lobbyists.

    So here’s how the new department would look.

     photo CommunityDevelopmentorgchart_zps61bce3eb.jpg

    One more thing. As you can see, under the restructuring proposal two part-time code inspectors would be hired. These inspectors would work with homeowners on property maintenance issues, while other types of inspections and permitting would be outsourced. (We are using SAFEbuilt while this is all hashed out.)

    The creation of Community Development is one of three proposals for significant restructuring. The second is the elevation of the Finance Division (currently under Administrative Services) to a freestanding Finance Department that would also house the IT Division. The third involves the transformation of Administrative Services into the City Manager’s Office, where a Management Analyst position will be created.