Joplin council to hear assessment of city building, planning services

Nov. 13—An assessment of Joplin city operations will be reviewed at a Monday work session of the Joplin City Council.

The assessment chiefly covers services the city provides for building and demolition projects, planning and zoning functions, and neighborhood improvement services, as well as other departments that contribute to those efforts.

Consultants from the firm of Baker and Tilly conducted the study and will report the information and recommendations from a 114-page report the firm developed at the 5:45 p.m. session.

According to the executive summary of the report, the company conducted a review and assessment of the city's land development services including permitting, inspections, approval and licensing of new or expanding developments where required.

Interviews and focus groups were held with the city manager, department directors and some members who do business with the city to compile information on issues and constraints with city services to ways to improve operations.

The study looked at staffing levels, gaps in staffing, job duties and responsibilities and the organization structure of departments involved in that work. An assessment and comparison of staffing levels to other selected cities was completed and the advisers will offer recommendations on how efficiency could be improved through the use of technology.

That work included discussions with local and regional developers, professional organizations, and past customers to get input into the city's permit processes and needs for better service.

Advisers looked to seven other cities with some similarities to Joplin to gauge staffing and service levels. Those are Bentonville, Arkansas; Blue Springs, Cape Girardeau, Chesterfield, Jefferson City, Maryland Heights and St. Joseph.

In one area that was examined, the number of building inspectors available, Joplin has six while the other cities had nine to 10. Joplin also is considered understaffed in the number of fire inspectors and in the planning department, but the engineering division of the public works department had more engineers than the other cities.

Joplin also is unable to provide many online services in the building and planning departments, though work is being done to provide online building permits.