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October 3, 2015

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Proposed merger of county offices put on hold

Plan to consolidate fire code inspectors under Building Department to undergo further study

A proposal to merge two county departments sparked hours of debate Tuesday at the County Commission meeting.

The issue: County staff needs commission approval to move the Fire Protection Bureau under the supervision of the Building Department.

The vote: No vote was taken. Commissioners asked staff to study the issue further and report back on April 2.

What it means: Staff will have one month to address questions raised by commissioners about the merger.

The Fire Protection Bureau, which oversees the county fire code and ensures compliance through inspections and building plan reviews, is currently a part of the fire department.

The proposed change would put it under the management of the building department, which oversees other parts of the permitting, code enforcement and development process, in an attempt to make it easier for businesses needing approval from the county.

The item drew opposition from several members of the fire department, local businesses and contractors in attendance. They said they’re happy with the service currently being provided by the Fire Protection Bureau.

The merger would involve relocating several dozen fire department employees – who would keep their pay and title – to a central location also used by the Building Department.

County staff said the move would make the Fire Protection Bureau more accessible to the public and streamline the building review and permitting process.

Commissioners, though, raised questions about why the move was needed and what it would accomplish.

“I’m still coming back to what it is we’re trying to fix and how do we get there?” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “I don’t think we’ve fleshed this out and I don’t think we’ve listened to do the people that do the jobs on a day-to-day basis. … If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right.”

Commissioners specifically asked for a document delineating the roles of the fire chief and the building official when it comes to overseeing the fire code. They also requested a study on the effects of centralizing the two different department staffs on customer service.

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