The fast pace of building projects in Columbia, along with the expansion of city government building projects, is straining the Department of Public Works staff, and the director is asking for more manpower.
When you consider all of the engineering involved in building the systems for roads, sewers, water, gas and electricity, as well as the architectural plans underlying the office parks, big box stores, apartment complexes and sprawling subdivisions, the job of overseeing the development seems daunting.
“It’s a lot to get one of these projects off,” said John Sudduth, the building regulations supervisor. “It’s a tremendous amount of paperwork.”
In addition, the city government is renovating the Gentry Building, home of the Parks and Recreation Department, and refurbishing and expanding the Wabash Transit Station. The city is also preparing to build another fire station and planning a $21 million expansion of the Daniel Boone City Building.
City Manager Bill Watkins’s proposed budget for 2007 seeks funding for eight positions in the Water and Electric division, including a plan reviewer and an engineering specialist, and 10 positions for Public Works, including a property acquisitions manager and another plan reviewer. The primary duty of the Public Works plan reviewer would be coordinating city building projects, but the person would also help plan reviewer Steve Buckels handle commercial projects.
While there was a drop in residential construction, the building inspector’s report through the first week in August shows that 239 permits were issued for commercial projects valued at $84 million, up from 170 permits valued at $57 million for the same period a year ago.
The Public Works Department is sticking with a policy initiated by former director Lowell Patterson of a two-week turnaround time for issuing all but the most complicated building permits. But that deadline is becoming harder to meet.
“We need an additional staffer to get plans to builders in a timely fashion so they can start their projects,” Public Works Director John Glascock said. “When we’re holding them up, we’re costing them money.”
Sudduth said having a coordinator of city building projects, someone with a singular focus, will help avoid cost overruns and “make sure the work is done correctly.”
The new employee, if the City Council approves funding for the position, would coordinate the qualifying of architects for building projects.
The city chose Chiodini Associates of St. Louis as the architects for the renovations of the Howard and Gentry government buildings and chose 360 Architecture of Kansas City for the Wabash Transit Station project. Local firm Peckham & Wright Architects was chosen for the Fire Station No. 1 and No. 3 alterations, and the city is preparing bids for architects who want to design Fire Station No. 7. Chiodini also did some preliminary work on the Daniel Boone City Building project.