LIMA — With a stroke of a pen, the agreement setting the terms for Allen County’s Building Department has been finalized.
Once approved by the state, the newly-formed building department and its performance will technically be the responsibility of the county, but those enforcing Ohio’s building code for the county will be employees of Lima’s building department.
Such an agreement allows the county to prioritize how the department conducts business and gives the county an annual option to reconsider the contract with the city.
“A strong Lima Building Department will make a strong Allen County Building Department,” Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg said. “I think we had a true problem with perception and some performance issues. We went looking for a solution, and we found it here.”
But the process to get to that point has been a “somewhat trying” time for the two entities, Begg said. After more than a year of public disagreements that at times turned contentious, city and county officials agreed Tuesday that despite past history, the final contract and the steps taken to get there have uplifted overall customer service of the department.
Some of the additional requirements imposed on the Lima Building Department in the county’s agreement include providing the option for video inspections, hiring dual-certified building/electrical inspectors and allowing online plan review.
Building department officials reported Tuesday that some of those requirements have already been fulfilled. In a brief list of accomplishments undertaken in 2019, Lima’s building officials have already tested remote video inspections, added an incentive for dual certification and performed its first online plan review.
Public Works Director Howard Elstro said the building department has also been able to reduce its average building plan review throughout 2019 down to 8.4 days — a record for the department.
“I believe the services we are providing now are the best they’ve ever been,” Elstro said.
Begg said next steps include taking a second look at the department’s fee structure to see if any changes need to be made. Unlike most building departments, Lima doesn’t use Ohio’s standard fee structure for reviews and inspections, which Lima officials claim end up costing less for end-users. With the new agreement, the county is interested in re-examining the issue to ensure that is still the case.
“Hopefully, this year will go great, and we’ll look forward to renewing the contract,” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.