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City looks to streamline

BY DANIEL SEIDL | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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As Iowa City aims to become more efficient, two city departments with similar functions will probably merge.

The Iowa City City Council voted Tuesday to approve the first consideration of a resolution that would combine the Housing and Inspection Services Department with the Planning and Community Development Department.

The newly formed department would be named the Neighborhood Development Services Department.

The aim of this merger, which was requested for approval by City Manager Tom Markus, is to streamline the functions of these departments by facilitating communication, he said.

“It takes some of the sequential kind of approach that we have right now and consolidates those issues,” Markus said. “I think it [would smooth] out the process.”

The two departments handle different parts of planning, and being under one roof would make any decision much more prompt.

“Sometimes, if the developer or builder, or resident comes in, they don’t necessarily get a coordinated response,” he said. “[The departments will] begin to understand each others’ roles better, being under one department.”

Doug Boothroy, the director of Housing and Inspection, agreed the merger will be beneficial, and he said the two departments overlap in many ways.

“We work in a lot of the same areas,” he said. “Where I see the changes in terms of improved communications will be some of those areas that overlap in terms of plan approvals and enforcement of rules on plans.”

This is just one step in his plan to make the operations of the city much more streamlined overall, Markus said.

“I’ve looked at the organization [in the three years] since I’ve been here,” he said. “I started to formulate ideas about where we could make the operation more efficient and streamlined.”

Councilor Jim Throgmorton said he trusts Markus to make decisions that are beneficial to the city, and this is no exception.

“I trust our city manager is very skilled at what he’s doing,” he said. “I doubt that it’ll have dramatic effects, but the city manager believes it will result in more efficient operations.”

Though the merger may not have a dramatic effect on the operations of the departments, one area where it would be sure to have an effect would be staffing, Markus said.

“There’s actually going to be one director where there’s currently two,” he said. “One of the two directors will be named the director of the new department, the other will be put in charge of economic development.”

The merger, Markus said, would cause no layoffs, and any cost incurred would be within the current city budget.

Though nothing is completed, and the merger still has a way to go, Markus said it could be expected to be effective by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.


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