Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

City officials are working toward a common goal of reorganizing city departments to streamline development processes, make doing city business easier for residents and enhancing and showcasing what Crescent City has to offer.

Almost a year after being hired as city manager, Eric Wier laid out the details and the timeline of the process. While it seems complicated on the surface, the concept of reorganization promises to make City offices more available to the public, while streamlining some processes that can hold up development projects, he said.

Wier noted many positive efforts happening in Crescent City from new events and community projects to new businesses coming to the city, adding that the city is looking at how to take advantage of, and expand on that momentum.

On Feb. 7, city council and staff held a strategic priorities meeting to discuss goals and priorities.

Goals identified were to support quality services, community safety, and health to enhance

the lives of citizens and visitors, promote a thriving local economy and attain organizational excellence.

“But in the end, hope is not a strategy,” Wier said, quoting Vince Lombardi. “We have to actually have some way of getting to those goals.”

Wier explained the process comes down to two components: strategic management of existing or previous commitments and strategic visioning for the future.

Among existing commitments are a fire department master plan, storm drain improvements, Pebble Beach bank stabilization, code enforcement, the Sister City relationship, and several more.

“We want to enhance local revenue generating capabilities of the city, reduce expenses, and be more service oriented,” he said. “How do we do that? We need to define what that Crescent City experience is.”

Saying the city plans to enhance the experience of visitors, residents and city customers/developers alike, Wier also noted there never seems to be enough money to do everything the city wants.

“This is how we’ll be able to generate more funds to do those things,” he said.

At the end of 2018, the city held a fund balance of $2.2 million, and adopted a deficit budget this year, Wier explained, due to some one-time operational costs.

“We, as a city, don’t have the advantage of making mistakes when we spend these funds,” he said. “We have to make sure that we put ourselves in the right position to spend the money wisely so we can get the results out of it.”

How we do it

Wier said a key to enhancing developers’ experience in Crescent City comes down to streamlining the process for them.

“Right now, we have a Community Development Department / Public Works Department which does engineering in-house,” he said. “Engineering and community development go hand-in-hand. A lot of times the developer can’t develop their whole project without signing off on the engineering department.”

Wier said the city will combine departments to allow developers to use a single department for all their needs.

“Currently, the building department is only open from 8 to noon and 1 to 5,” he said. “That’s when everyone else is trying to do their job, so unless they take time off, they will not be able to come in and do business with the city.”

Wier said a plan is to open earlier, stay through lunch and remain open later in order to allow more people to do business with the city.

With the 2017 purchase of the former Bank of America building at 2nd and H streets, the city hopes to streamline the experience for all customers, with all departments and a conference room in the single building. Construction is expected to begin in winter 2020.

As for the visitor experience, Wier noted the city plans to maximize its use of the cultural center, hold concerts in the parks, have festivals, create recreation leagues and more, implement the pool’s master plan, and implement capital improvements around the city.

“Currently, (Beachfront) park is a great asset but it’s not maximized to its fullest,” Wier said.

However, a possible $8.5 million Prop 68 grant opportunity could change that and Wier feels the city is in a good position to apply for the funds to implement the city’s Parks Master Plan.

Wier said if awarded, money would be mostly used to build amenities into Beachfront Park, such as a bicycle pump track, amphitheater, pool upgrades and improvements and more.

“The Prop specifically lists things like bike parks, amphitheaters, and aquatic center improvements,” he said, “so this could be a way to do it.”

Reorganized

Many of the proposed changes would go unnoticed by average residents, according to Wier. However, one strategy, known as a 9/80 schedule, would change the availability of city departments for everyone who uses them.

The new schedule would open most city offices at 7:30 a.m., keep them open through the lunch hour, and close at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Every other Friday, staff would be in the building working, but would not be open to the public.

With the new schedule, offices would be open 40 hours a week and allow staff an additional 16 hours a month for projects, training, meetings, etc.

Organizationally, the city manager’s office would oversee the finance department, administration, police, fire department, the housing authority, public works and the RV park/ community development department.

The city will soon be advertising to hire a recreation and events director, to oversee the RV park, the Cultural Center, the pool, park recreation and local events. Wier disclosed the position will pay $60,000 to $70,000 a year, depending on qualifications.

Wier said the amphitheater concept has been popular with locals and, if funded by Prop 68 and built, it would give the new recreation director a venue to fill.

An assistant city manager position will also be added, Wier said.

Public works will be reorganized to oversee the city’s fleet, parks maintenance building maintenance, electrical and public works.

Wier said the public works director currently deals with an overwhelming number of departments, along with managing many public works employees. Under the new arrangement, he will have more time to speak to the public and help developers with projects.

A new Community Development /Engineering Department would be created to oversee code enforcement, project management, consultant management, planning and economic development, building inspection and, of course, engineering.

A public works operations director position will be created and Jason Wylie will take that position, Wier said.

“A problem with the current structure is that the public works director had all the engineering and all the projects but also had all the people management of all the employees in the field,” Wier said, noting the operations director will free up time and resources for the public works director to do civil engineering, projects and development.

Make it easier

Wier showed a list of typical developer expectations, along with a basic checklist of what the city will expect from them. Wier said the city will also need to provide time estimates of how long project reviews will take to process. Cutting the time and complexity of projects will make Crescent City favorable to other areas when it comes to development projects.

In the end, it’s estimated the reorganization will result in quicker processing leading to building permits, making way for more and bigger projects inside the city limits.

Further streamlining will take place with department managers. It would also mean 1.5 new full-time positions, at a cost of $70,000 a year.

“Our hope is that these positions will pay for themselves,” he said, referring to a 2010 study that says people spend between $25 and $50 in the city when attending events. “It will be that catalyst that we need to encourage businesses to come and help us, especially in the downtown and Highway 101 corridor.”

In May, a presentation will be made to city council as part of the proposed budget.

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