“City Government 101” is an ongoing series that debuted in April 2023 and highlights different aspects of municipal government as it pertains to Columbus, Nebraska, in hopes to provide information on how the City of Columbus operates.
Every City of Columbus department head was recently asked some questions in regard to their department, the current fiscal year budget and plans for their department in the upcoming fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2023-Sept. 30, 2024).
DEPARTMENT: Community Development
DEPARTMENT HEAD: Andy Woehrer
(Interview conducted in September 2023)
[NOTE TO READERS: This department administers, enforces and regulates the building, zoning, and construction codes within the city limits of Columbus and the 2-mile extra territorial area surrounding the city. The Community Development Department is responsible for permitting services, development review, implementation and maintenance of the Comprehensive Plan.]
Q: How many people are in your department?
A: The Community Development department has six people.
Q: How long have you been head of your department?
A: I have been head of the department for 1 year and 6 months
Q: How do you think things went for your department in fiscal year 2022-2023?
A: Community Development had a good year. The department transitioned to the online permitting and to the new Community Building. The building department was busy with residential/commercial plan reviews and inspections. Code enforcement has been busy with enforcing codes while revising and updating procedures that include abatements. The Community Development department has gained the maintenance position, which has allowed a successful transition to the new building. Maintenance has been trained on all the new technology and other duties throughout the building.
Q: What were at least 2 of your department’s biggest accomplishments in the last fiscal year (why)?
A: One of the biggest accomplishments was having code enforcement revise and update procedures and city codes to help with their job duties as well as getting equipment in order to complete abatements.
The other accomplishment was team building. This includes the understanding of how the whole department works and runs as all employees are involved in all duties, which consists of having communication meetings, being on the same page with online processes, learning and remaking procedures in order to help our department out.
Q: What are some of the problems your department faced in the last fiscal year and how did you overcome them?
A: We ran into a lot of BS&A online issues with fee transactions, required or not required fields, contractors not able to get in to do the process. We worked with BS&A and contractors to get the basics down so homeowners and contractors can go online and get a permit out. [NOTE TO READERS: BS&A is a collection of municipal services providing instant and convenient access to various kinds of important information held at your local government.]
Code enforcement had problems with nuisance codes, procedures and abatement processes. We revised and updated nuisance code and other procedures for abatements.
We also experienced permit and application procedures not being met by homeowners and contractors. This year, the inspectors have been tracking down homeowners and contractors who don't have permits or not wanting to call in for inspections for their projects. These are all working problems that we are getting better at overcoming.
Q: What are at least 3 major things you are wanting your department to accomplish in fiscal year 2023-2024 and how is the new budget going to improve that?
A: One, is getting all old paper forms to be fillable and online to continue the paperless process. Two, is getting everything dealing with code enforcement to get revised and improved to have them be better in their position. Three, is all six employees, including myself, need to continue to learn with all processes and code knowledge to continue building a knowledgeable team under community development.
Q: What can the public expect from your department in the next fiscal year?
A: The public can expect us to continue cleaning up the city, keeping the town safe with projects meeting all of our standards and codes, making the online process easier, communication with social media and onsite visits with home owners and contractors. Also, getting the public more knowledgeable on the codes and work with them on getting all their needs answered.
To reach Andy Woehrer, email him at Andy.Woehrer@columbusne.us.
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