The addition of a code enforcement officer and new computer software are among the changes streamlining the occupancy permit process for Manchester residents.
Planning, Zoning and Economic Director Melanie Rippetoe saw an opportunity to change the occupancy permitting procedure that, in turn, will improve code enforcement and generate more revenue for the city.
Rippetoe said that St. Louis County has handled occupancy permits in the past on rental properties for homes and apartments within Manchester city limits; however, effective Feb. 1, those permits will be handled by Manchester employees. The cost for occupancy permits $150 for rental homes and $125 for apartments, of which, Manchester retains only $50 per inspection.
Additionally, Manchester will require inspections for all homes being sold in 2018, not just rental properties changing tenancy or occupancy. With between 488 and 710 homes sold in Manchester each year, the additional revenue is estimated to be over $100,000. With the retention of 100 percent of the permit fees for rental home and multi-family dwellings included in that total, the increase in revenue is estimated at $160,000 per year.
Rippetoe hopes residents see the upside to these changes, even though it comes at a small additional cost to residents buying and/or selling homes.
“Currently, our code enforcement officer can only reactively vet complaints by neighbors. Once Manchester employees inspect homes and apartments for permits, they can proactively look for code violations, requiring the owner, previous or potential new one, to make the corrections to obtain their permit. We see this as a proactive, rather than reactive, way to make sure codes are being followed,” Rippetoe explained.
Home inspections typically take an hour to complete, apartments average about half that time. To handle the increased workload, the city is actively seeking to hire an additional full-time code enforcement officer with starting pay beginning at $37,000 plus benefits. [For information on the code enforcement officer position, visit www.manchestermo.gov, selecting the employment tab on the left of the home page.]
The planning and zoning department also is going high-tech. At the Board of Aldermen meeting on Jan.2, unanimous approval was given to purchase software from MyGov [mygov.us] to be used by the planning and zoning department. The cost to purchase the software is a one-time fee of $9,600, plus an annual subscription fee of $16,200. The software is cloud-based so it can be used both in the office or in the field using smartphone technology. The purchase price includes software installation and online and on-site training.
The MyGov software replaces the Excel spreadsheet database currently being used, which Rippetoe admits is antiquated. The software will be utilized in all permit situations and also with site plans within the department. It allows for real-time updates by inspectors in the field, with an immediate pass-or-fail notification. It also includes a customer-friendly portal if they want to report a potential code violation or want to check on the status of a previously reported incident.
“It assures a great level of accountability and access,” said Rippetoe. “The customer should be able to track where they are in the process through the customer portal, which is certainly a win-win for both Manchester and our residents.”