During a two-hour workshop coming before their continual Meeting on April 6, 2021, the Fernandina coast City the supervisory board (FBCC) listened intently together 21 individuals carried forth their complaints, concerns and compliments for the City’s structure Department. Speaker were permitted three minute to state their position on a variety of issues; some readily available suggestions for improving current processes compelled to for sure City building permits.  

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Stephen Beckman, Fernandina Beach structure Official

The threads around the building Department that ran through the complaints can be categorized as disrespectful interpersonal dealings, length of time required to process a building permit, fees, “by the rule interpretations” of password in every circumstance, and widespread fear of reprisal because that bringing complaints forward. Complainants likewise expressed frustration through the linear nature of allow processing, advocating the plans it is in reviewed all at once by every reviewing authorities.

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Other speakers complimented Stephen Beckman, the City structure Official, because that his accessibility and interpretations. One speaker, a state certified structure official that has also served top top the Florida structure Commission, claimed that he has had actually no complaints in managing Beckman, whom he identified as “respectful, expeditious, and also doing things the way they need to be done.”

Five speakers represented the Nassau County chamber of Commerce. Castle addressed results of the current survey they conducted to identify level the satisfaction v current building Department staff and also procedures. Regina Duncan, room President report via email that room of commerce staff, government Affairs and also Board emerged the survey. She wrote, “Outreach because that participants was done v our network of enterprise (members and nonmembers), NEFBA, Realtors, Clubs and also associations and also an aggressive/targeted society media campaign. The survey ran from March 2-12, 2021. Projects were suggested by period from current to 2018 or before.”

Summary results of the survey room presented below, representing responses of 84 businesses and 80 homeowners.

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Workshop bring away public input

Mayor Mike Lednovich convened the workshop in an answer to a high level the dissatisfaction through the structure Department operations and staff together reflected in that inspection in i beg your pardon 164 respondent — a mix of homeowners, businesses and also building experts — provided input.

Six other speakers, expressed satisfaction with building Official Stephen Beckman and his code interpretations, if expressing issue in some instances over the size of time and also cost of acquiring a building permit. Ten speaker expressed stronger dissatisfaction, citing examples from their own experience as job owners, home builders or architects.  

The FBCC listened to speaker for an hour and a half before proceeding to comment on the problems identified and also consider recommending solutions. Commissioners to be in covenant that actions were required to resolve deficiencies identified by the speakers. All commissioners expressed concerns over the allegations the disrespect presented to client by building Department staff. Lock agreed the no customer need to be reluctant to come forward the end of are afraid of retaliation, one more allegation cited by some speakers.

Mayor Lednovich invite Commissioners to sweet in through comments and recommendations adhering to public input.

Commissioners answer to involves voiced

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Vice market Len Kreger

Vice market Len Kreger waved a copy the the chamber study, saying “This is a far-ranging problem. This chart is terrible in what that shows.” Kreger to express the need to resolve fees, the scope of the permit and also systems. He additionally said there requirements to it is in a documented process for handling City staff and their relationships with the public. In response to part suggestions the the County it is in asked come take end the City building Department functions, Kreger said that County lawyer Mike Mullin has actually told him the the county is not interested in act so. Kreger reminded the audience the the County structure Department also has big financial reserves. The wondered about the value of privatizing several of the services and analyzing the current fee structure.  

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Commissioner Chip Ross summarized complaints together falling right into one of 3 categories: the message, interpretation of code, or the messenger. Ross said that the problems determined have been going on because that years, not limited to the current building Official and also staff. He reminded Commissioners and the audience the it is more challenging to construct in the City than in the County because the FBCC over years has actually imposed more restrictions than the State structure Code to regulate building height, setbacks, trees and wetlands; flood ordinances regulate building in the flood plain. He claimed that neighborhood fees are in line with other communities. In order to address the interpersonal issues, Ross suggested that Building and also Code Enforcement staff be equipped through body cameras as soon as they carry out site visits.

Ross also indicated that comparisons with the County building Department to be problematic due to the fact that operations to be not precisely parallel and also work was spread among more staff in the County. He also provided that reserve revenues for both were over $2M. He available the following chart:

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Commissioner David Sturges, who is a contractor through profession, handle the good and bad elements of the structure Department operations. That observed that the Department has actually caring people, noting that the structure Official even responds on weekends, something the he has not knowledgeable in the past. “Codes and regulations are there because that a reason, to defend the health and safety of ours residents,” Sturges said. He acknowledged that the structure Official took end the job a relatively short time ago and that “he has actually moved harder and faster than anyone I’ve ever before seen. This is why us are having actually so lot push back from ns believe. He is going by the letter of the law, putting in hrs to carry out things right.”  

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Commissioner David Sturges

However, he noted that processes and also operations need “tweaking” so the projects can move an ext quickly. “We need a better system,” he said, “but the great part is the we space working on it.” Sturges supported the contact for a plank of Appeals.

Sturges identified another part of the problem: the variety of departments that are associated in reviewing and approving permits. Planning, Utilities and Building all have a say, however to the lay human all the activity and time spent is lumped under the structure Department since that department issues the final permit.

“Nobody desire to hear that us need an ext staff to do this, but the reality is that us only have actually 19 more people functioning for the whole City 보다 we did twenty years ago,” Sturges said. “We are not bloated as a City government and also the truth is that we need help.” He suggested contracting out permit review which can be excellent remotely.

Sturges spoke about the variety of calls he received with complaints, noting that those human being did not present up during the workshop come speak. The affirmed that world fear retaliation because that making an unfavorable comments. Sturges expressed assistance for the building Official while calling for added training and supervision to assist him attend to management issues.

“The an excellent part,” Sturges said, “is that we recognize the problems and also we are trying to carry out something about them right now. Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about them. We should do something, to invest the money to lug in employee to assist get the work-related done.”

Commissioner Bradley bean agreed, saying the the situation is “worse 보다 everyone says.” “It is a substantial issue that must be tackled,” he said. He supported the idea of developing an advisory committee to dominance on complaints, but stressed the the City needs its very own Planning Department, even if factor to consider would be offered to combining building Departments in the County.

Mayor Lednovich spoke last. He called for one appeals process to have the ability to respond come complaints quickly.

In summarizing the workshop, market Lednovich readily available the complying with direction to City Manager Dale Martin, asking for a report back at the April 20, 2021 FBCC consistent Meeting:

The City Manager will certainly investigate the development of a building and construction Board of Appeals.A client feedback survey have to be formulated because that the structure Department in bespeak to measure improvement.Treatment of customers have to improve and the City Manager will investigate the idea of using body cameras to remove the “he said/she said” facet of countless complaints.Systems need to be reviewed to recognize ways to speed up the process.The scope of building permits should be the evaluation to determine whether permits are forced in all instances.The City Manager will talk with the county Manager to comment on the idea that combining structure Departments.

Vice mayor Len Kreger said that numerous of these activity items are currently in process and invited the City Manager to elaborate. City Manager Martin stated that ads have actually been inserted to hire an ext staff come lessen throughput time because that permits. He additionally said that occupational is underway to determine if much more of the processes deserve to be done at the same time to speed up the process. There is a fee examine that has actually been newly completed and is before the Commission because that consideration. “You can change fees any type of time,” boy name said.

Martin stated that customer organization training is being explored for every City staff. Lednovich asked if Martin might investigate whether there is client training particularly targeted to building Department people, and Martin agreed to perform so.

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Martin asked Commissioners to schedule one-on-one meetings with building Official Stephen Beckman on several of the obstacles confronting the building Department.