Table of Contents


 

Land Use Agency

Reason for Review

The Grand Jury has jurisdiction to investigate and report on the “operations, accounts, and records of the officers, departments, or functions of the county” pursuant to Section 925 of the Penal Code.

Methodology

The Grand Jury reviewed the Department’s practice, policies and procedures, interpretations, and the code enforcement procedures.

Agency Overview

Background

The Land Use Agency consists of a Building Department, Code Enforcement, Environmental Health Department, Planning Department, Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and Airport Land Use Commission.  This agency operates under the direction of the Land Use Agency Director, the Board Committee, and the full Board of Amador County.  The Grand Jury focused its review on the following departments:

Methodology

Members of the Grand Jury conducted interviews with employees, management personnel, Amador County residents and contractors, reviewed files and documents, and made site tours.

 Persons interviewed:

Documents examined:

Facts

1.       The Permits Plusâ Software system and training for it had not been installed and made operable for the Building Department, nor had any training been done as of March 1, 2001, fifteen months after the Resolution had passed.  The Building Department staff received training shortly after March 1, and an Inspector II has been given the authority to manage the $77,000 program.

Findings

1.       There is reluctance within the Land Use Agency management to adopt new technology which is freely expressed in private and in public.  This, coupled with the 15-month lag time between purchase and implementation of the Permits Plusâ system, indicates a low priority for keeping pace with accepted business practices throughout public and private sectors.  Such technology is necessary to eliminate backlog and increase efficiency both within and between departments.

2.       There is a large backlog of data entry associated with implementation of the new software, and existing personnel indicate an ongoing need for additional clerical support throughout the Land Use Agency.

Recommendations

1.       Once the decision has been made to purchase and implement improvements in technology, make purchases and implement them in a timely manner. 

2.       Hire an additional clerical person to provide data entry and support for all departments within the Land Use Agency and to expedite implementation of the new software.

Amador County Building Department

Background

The Building Department functions to protect the public against hazards associated with construction, use, and occupancy of buildings, structures, and storage facilities.  This function is carried out through use of building codes and ordinances, which regulate the design and construction of buildings, structures, and storage facilities.  This includes, but is not limited to, site grading, structural, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. 

The Building Department generates revenue for Amador County by issuing permits and collecting fees for construction (or placement) of any building over 120 square feet located outside the incorporated cities in the county.  This revenue fluctuates with the building season, as does the workload. 

The personnel of the Department consists of:

As of March 1, 2001, there was a Building Inspector II vacancy in the Department creating the need to advertise and hire new personnel.  The new hire must be trained to gain familiarity with the operation of the computer system and procedures of the Amador County Building Department.  

The 1998-1999 Grand Jury noted that “there is no central archive for record storage and little of the Department’s records or information was available on the computer.”  The current computer program is being updated and the challenge is getting the records entered and the personnel trained in the operation of the new system.  Estimated time for data entry (10,405 files) is 2,600 hours.  This is approximately 65 man-weeks (or 1.25 man-years) of extra workload. 

Information is available from the Building Department to help guide citizens and contractors through the process required for obtaining permits and related documents.  The Building Official keeps copies of existing building codes and an Interpretation Manual of some of the code interpretations throughout the State of California at the Department headquarters.  The public can review these documents at the Building Department.

Methodology

Information was obtained through interviews with employees and management personnel, review of files and documents, and tour of workplaces. 

Persons interviewed:

Documents examined:

Facts

1.       Records in the Building Department have been stacked, creating aisles with such restricted access that two people cannot pass each other.  This creates a fire hazard and restricts egress in case of emergency.

2.       Visual inspection shows there is no room for additional staffing in the Building Department’s assigned area.

3.       Other departments besides the Building Department use the front counter, such as Planning, Code Enforcement, Environmental Health, Public Works, and the Board of Supervisors.

4.       The Building Official was promoted from the full-time position of Plans Checker and currently holds both positions.

Findings

1.       At the time of this writing, the Building Department intends to move all records to the new General Services building.

2.       The front counter of the Building Department cannot conveniently accommodate two customers if both are required to open and display a full set of plans.

3.       The Building Official’s promotion eliminated the position of Plan Checker listed in the organization charts, and the Building Department does not have qualified personnel available to back up that function.  The plan-checking procedure has a history of being consistently backlogged with work. 

4.       It is difficult to hire and retain competent personnel.  Hiring and training new personnel is a significant cost.  In April of 2001, a wage survey of nine counties including Amador found that Amador County Building Inspector I was ranked eighth.  Building Inspector II was ranked sixth.  (Mariposa County’s salary for this position was unavailable.)

5.       In the 1999-2000 fiscal year there were 1,085 building permits processed, of which 151 were new single-family dwellings, for total revenue of $414,164.15.  In the 2000-2001 fiscal year as of February 2001, there were 687 permits processed, of which 123 were new single-family dwellings, for a total revenue of $292,050.70. 

Recommendations

1.       Expedite transfer of the files to the new General Services building to eliminate potential safety issues and make space available for additional staff.

2.       Consider expansion of the counter area in future planning for expansion of County Administrative facilities.

3.       Reinstate a full-time Plan Checker position to eliminate backlog.  Creating this position would allow the Building Official to perform his duties as listed as well as enable him to handle the overflow in plan checking during peak season.  In the private sector, this would reduce the time delays faced by builders, homeowners, and business owners.  The increasing volume of building permits should provide sufficient funding for this position.  Should this source not be sufficient, consider an increase in Building Department fees.

4.       Make the pay scale for Department employees commensurate with surrounding comparable counties to retain trained and qualified personnel. 

Code Enforcement Department

Background

The Code Enforcement Department performs investigations and enforces land-use and vehicle abatement laws.  This Department investigates all land-use complaints for validity and takes what action is necessary to attain compliance with codes and ordinances.  In addition, it enforces State Labor Code 6404.5, the smoke-free workplace regulations. 

The personnel of the Department includes:

Methodology

Information was obtained through interviews with employees and management personnel, and review of files and documents.

Persons interviewed:

Documents examined:

Facts

1.       Trailer and Mobile Regulations Code 19.48.080 regulates the parking and storage of said vehicles on residential lots.

2.       The Code Enforcement Officer is responsible for enforcement of the State statute pertaining to the smoke-free workplace.

Findings

1.       The wording of Trailer Ordinance 19.48.080 hinders Code Enforcement action on the regulation.

2.       It has been difficult for the Code Enforcement Officer to pursue enforcement of the smoke-free workplace statute county-wide.  Law enforcement personnel have been trained in the enforcement procedures and are actively working to enforce the statute.

Recommendations

1.       Review of Trailer Ordinance 19.48.080 should be done by the Board of Supervisors using Code Enforcement Officers input.

2.       Continue to work together to with local law enforcement agencies to enforce the smoke-free workplace statute consistently throughout the county.

Environmental Health Department

Background

This Department inspects homes and businesses in Amador County for the environmental health, sanitation and hazardous waste compliance with the laws, rules, regulations, and procedures that govern.  Typical tasks include oversight of food protection, recreational health, construction plan review, water systems, septic tanks and cleaners, water waste, solid waste, public school food facilities, fair grounds, private school inspection, lead-illness investigation, and hazardous material storage.  The Environmental Health Department also maintains an Emergency Response Team. 

The personnel of the Department consists of:

Methodology

Information was obtained through interviews with employees and management personnel and review of files and documents. 

Persons interviewed:

 Documents examined:

Findings

None.

Recommendations

No recommendations.

Response Required

No response required

Planning Department

Background

The Planning Department researches, reviews, and analyzes information and data for the preparation of planning reports on both current and long-range issues.  It prepares zoning change proposals, conditional-use permits, variances, site plan reviews, general plan amendments, parcel map reviews, and other items.  The Planning Department participates in the subdivision and use-permit application procedures.  It prepares environmental assessments in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, prepares and/or reviews environmental impact reports, and reviews information and develops mitigation measures for environmental problems.  The Department prepares notices of pending public hearing items for review by others, incorporates comments into staff reports, and develops conditional requirements consistent with report comments.  It assists with planning ordinances and amendments.  The Department reviews building permits for zoning regulation compliance, prepares general plan elements, and monitors use-permits for compliance with applicable ordinances and regulations.  It processes required annual compliance reporting of mining operations, and reviews building plans for compliance with pertinent county codes.  The Department performs reviews of site development plans, prepares and presents staff reports for the Planning Commission, prepares reports for the Board on Planning Commission actions, and answers public inquiries regarding planning issues, permit procedures, and zoning.  The majority of work done by the Department is done on a reaction basis. 

The personnel of the Planning Department consists of:

Methodology

Members of the Grand Jury reviewed files and documents and toured workplaces. 

Documents examined:

Findings

As with other departments located within the County Administration Center, available office space is at a premium.  Planning Department staff has been required to make significant changes to the office to make room for such ordinary office equipment as a new printer. 

Recommendations

Allow for expansion and growth in all future planning for workspace areas and allotments.

Response Required

As required in Section 933.05 of the Penal Code, Director of the Land Use Agency must respond to each finding and recommendation of the entire Land Use Agency Report in the manner indicated on page one of this report.  The Amador County Board must respond to the budgetary and personnel matters.