Manatee County government news release

Manatee County continues downsizing by consolidating four departments into two Planning, Building departments become Building and Development Services Department;Agriculture and Resource Conservation combined with Community Services

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (Feb. 7, 2011) – As the latest in a series of steps to improve customer service while streamlining local government, Manatee County Government leaders today announced restructuring moves that will consolidate four departments into two and will realign a handful of county divisions to maximize their value to the community. Effective immediately, Manatee County Planning Department and the Building Department will be combined into a new Building and Development Services Department that will be a one-stop center to serve and assist the business community. In the past, these functions were housed in several county offices.

Separately, the Agriculture and Resource Conservation Department will become the Agriculture and Extension Service division within the Community Services Department under the direction of Brenda Rogers. Rogers was director of ARC from 2000 through 2010. Manatee County Area Transit will now fall under the Public Works Department, since the two are co-located at 1022 26th Avenue East, and it allows the full spectrum of the transit functions to fall under one department.

The new Building and Development Services Department, under the direction of John Barnott, will incorporate the Transportation Systems Management division now in Public Works responsible for the analysis and development of the County's thoroughfare roadway system. The unit will better be able to forecast long term community needs alongside county planners. Consolidation of departments is another result from recommendations made by the 2009 Matrix study which called for “approving development plans and building permits through more departmental coordination.”

The new department will also take over the County’s Code Enforcement division previously under the Neighborhood Services Department. Code Enforcement officers will now work closely with a field inspections division on unlicensed and unpermitted activity and to help address open and expired permits.

Three positions were eliminated as part of today’s announcement, including the Organizational Development Manager, Transportation System Model and Data Engineer Supervisor and Planning Technician I.

“This is an organizational change in anticipation of upcoming budget decisions that will have to be made,” said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker. “There’s not a day that goes by when we are not trying to downsize this government. We’re going to ask staff across the organization to continue to do more with less.”

Budget planners are forecasting a $12 million to $14 million reduction in property tax revenues for the upcoming fiscal year and the County’s leadership team is exploring every option to keep layoffs to a minimum. No salaries will change as a result of today’s announcement.

The departmental consolidation, along with the Manatee County Commission’s recent two-year extension of impact fee reductions, frees up long range planning and transportation officials to concentrate on the “How Will We Grow” project which is mapping a course for Manatee County’s future for generations to come. With more resources focused on “How Will We Grow,” the Organizational Development Manager’s position is eliminated.

Logistically, there will be no change in the day-to-day operations of planning, permitting and building review; private sector businesses will continue to apply for building permits and to submit development applications with the county where they always have. But as the consolidation takes hold and county staff settles into new roles, the private sector should notice greater responsiveness and predictability.

“As we bring everyone together we will look at process improvements at a very detailed level,” Barnott said. “That’s my job, to lead that discussion and come up with the improvements at a grassroots level. It will be done in conjunction with staff and with our customers.”

John Osborne, who will become the Planning and Zoning Official, said governments that have successfully implemented a one-stop development review processes are able to process land development applications more efficiently.

“It provides a more customer-centric approach while still protecting the public health, safety and welfare,” Osborne said. “The county has been arranged this way in the past, but it was never brought to full fruition with a physical setup like this. Also, the knowledge, skills and ability of staff never aligned this way under single leadership that could effectively accomplish the mission.”

In total, the new department will oversee:     Contractor Licensing     Plans Review, Permitting and Inspections     Floodplain Management     Development Plans Review     Environmental Planning     Transportation Planning     Comprehensive Planning     Code Enforcement     The “How Will We Grow” project and upcoming land development code improvements

“Under Mr. Hunzeker’s leadership we’re creating a more dynamic organization by bundling many of the building and development processes in one department,” Barnott said. “By combining this group, communication will become a little easier. Rather than being three miles away, we’ll be an arm’s length away.”

Ed Hunzeker can be reached at 748.4501, ext. 3798 John Barnott can be reached at 748.4501, ext. 3887 John Osborne can be reached at 748.4501, ext. 6825 Brenda Rogers can be reached at 749.3030, ext. 3489

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