‘Efficient for efficiency’s sake’

Laramie Code Administration is the latest department to go under the magnifying glass in the continuing search for ways to slim down the city’s budget and increase operational efficiency.

After Code Administration Manager Jerry Hankin retired this summer, Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the city decided to review the department to determine whether a new manager was needed to replace Hankin or if the position could be eliminated by installing new technology and spreading the manager’s workload among the three remaining Code Administration employees.

“Any time we have a member of staff leave, we take the opportunity to make sure that department is running as efficiently as possible,” Jordan said. “We need to be efficient for efficiency’s sake, because it’s our job to be efficient — we’re spending taxpayer money. Our efficiency translates into for the efficiency for the building and development community, which saves them time and money.”

Commonly referred to as the building department, Code Administration is responsible for ensuring new buildings in Laramie meet international safety standards before being occupied, Laramie Administrative Analyst Sam Farstad said.

“Code Administration is a division that is a part of the whole development process,” Farstad said.

The department administers the International Building Code, which is developed by the International Code Council, he said. While some amendments are made locally to account for environmental factors, Farstad said Laramie makes few changes to the international standard.

While Laramie’s Unified Development Code regulates some aspects of horizontal development such as landscaping and parking requirements, the UDC is primarily enforced by the Laramie Planning Division; whereas, Code Administration deals primarily with vertical development, he explained.

“The (international) codes are established and the construction methodology is developed with life safety being the core rationale,” Farstad said. “Using historical data, engineering principles with egress, access and energy, the codes serve the goal of constructing a building to not fall down, support wind and snow loads and provide entrance and exit of a building safely during an emergency.”

For the most part, Farstad said the department ensures the safety of Laramie’s new buildings through the permitting and inspection processes before issuing a certificate of occupancy. Once the certificate is obtained, the building leaves the department’s purview until a modification or remodel permit is requested, at which time the building must be brought back up to code before Code Administration can sign off on the new work.

Hankin worked in the department for decades, accruing a significant amount of institutional knowledge about building development in Laramie, so replacing him would be no easy task, Jordan said. But with advancements in technology and shared workloads, she said the city might be able to streamline the department to the point of not requiring a new manager.

While portions of the review can be done internally, Jordan said the city also reached out to the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance for input from the building community about whether the position could be eliminated.

“We had an open dialogue at a meeting with the LCBA Government Relations Committee,” Farstad said. “We talked about some of the technology opportunities we had with staff scarcity right now and what redundancies we could eliminate in the review process as well some of the industry best practices.”

One piece of technology he said could benefit the department was a shared online platform that would allow several departments to comment on the permit review process, cutting down on paperwork and the time required to approve a permit or certificate.

Moving forward, Jordan said the city could also investigate the possibility of contracting some of Hankin’s responsibilities to third parties.

No decision has been formalized about replacing Hankin yet, and she said the review is slated to continue into early 2018 as the city collects input from the LCBA and building development community.

“Our goal is always to be leaner and more efficient with the resources we have,” Jordan said. “Frankly, given the fiscal climate right now, we don’t have much of a choice.”

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