BDC Quarterly Bulletin - Jul. 17, 2019
The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) appoints the Building-Development Commission (BDC) as an advisory board to Code Enforcement. Membership includes representation from the design, construction and development communities, as well as the public.
Here are brief summaries of significant matters impacting the design and construction community on which the Building-Development Commission and the Code Enforcement Department have focused from April 1, 2019, through June 30, 2019:
HOME INTERNET PERMITS (HIP)
CHARLOTTE WATER - PRIVATE WATER
1. ACCELA UPDATE
In October the BOCC approved an RFBA for $1.8MM to bring the permitting and inspections processes to the next level. The Statement of Work is now complete. The Department has moved forward working on the gap analysis leaving 88 items to be integrated into the process as we maintain operations.
During our vendor selection, we began looking at what is available in the market today. Based on budget, Accela was a good fit. However; they do not have all the functionality needed. A full gap analysis for Code Enforcement and the Land Development side was completed. The gap analysis included functionality, out of the box, and other items we will have to customize to ensure functionality is not lost. An estimator and scheduling solutioning will have to be created in-house and will have to be resourced out to include a nonfunctional side within data migration with our current posse system. Some vendors Accela and Computronix had scheduling solutions but didn’t fit the functionality required. Accela will create this solution in-house. The cost for the out of the box development will require an additional $1.6MM to complete and implement.
2. WEB OVERHAUL
Code Enforcement’s web site has been overhauled with the expertise of a team of 25 subject matter experts. The site’s content was reduced by more than half. The web site content is now organized in a way that is organic for customers. Graphics and layouts have been used to make the content more digestible. Toolboxes have been kept for customers to revisit in the future. Graphics are more modern. Breadcrumbs are more functional. Owner dashboards are more functional. Permitting, inspections and plan review have been reorganized. Code Administration has been rebranded and is now called Code Information and Appeals for each trade. An added function is the calendar function for customers, to include a new featured login. The new design became live on July 1st. Communications were distributed to customers the week of June 17th.
3. CSS RESULTS
The 2019 Code Enforcement Customer Satisfaction Survey is now complete. Satisfaction survey results were up universally from 2017 levels. The Oversight Survey was up from 6.25 to 7.25. The Professionals Survey was up from 6.22 to 7.03. The Inspections Survey was up from 6.59 to 7.55. The overall Commercial focused respondents had higher overall ratings than Residential focused respondents. Total responses received were 889; a 13.1 response rate. Results from all three groups showed positive trends comparing 2017 to 2019 as data went up across the board.
In the summary of significant findings, 24 of 46 attributes were evaluated for satisfaction and found ratings above 4.0. The top three areas were web-related; 1) Ease of accessing other documents on the internet; 2) Timeliness of permit request and review process; 3) Ease of accessing inspection information via the internet.
In the Professional's survey, what rose to the top, were the professionalism of staff in permitting, courtesy of the staff in permitting, and ease with which I can check on the status of my permit. The areas of concern were; ability to quickly reach the right person to address the reason for my call, timeliness of permit request, review process, and employees giving clear explanations of required changes from code deficiencies.
The correlation analysis attributes with the greatest effect on overall satisfaction were; 1) I receive good value for the dollar of Code Enforcement and permitting services the County provides; 2) I am satisfied with the County's permitting processes; 3) I am satisfied with RTAC Electronic Plan Review.
On the Inspection side, the top three attributes of satisfaction were; 1) ease with which I can check on inspection results; 2) ease with which I can schedule inspections; 3) ease with which I can make payments. The top three areas of concern were; 1) ability to quickly reach the right person to address the reason for the call; 2) timeliness of inspections; 3) employees listen/understand my points before making their decision. Attributes with the greatest effect of overall satisfaction were, I receive good value for the dollar in Code Enforcement and Permitting services which the County provides.
Recommendations made based on the customer's voice; 1) recognize staff for positives and great work; 2) Best Practice reviews perceived as positive; 3) effective onboarding of newer customers; 4) emphasize seamlessness; 5) seek technology improvements; 6) improve responsiveness and access to employees.
4. HOME INTERNET PERMITS (HIP)
HIP was created in 2014 for residential projects less than $30K when a homeowner serves as the contractor, allowing the homeowner to submit a building permit application online.
Challenges arise when a permit is issued to a homeowner, requiring the permitted residence be the homeowner’s primary residence for 12 months after the renovation has been completed. It does not allow a contractor to flip and sell the residence. If the homeowner is not the primary resident, it breaks the law and is in violation of the general statutes.
HIP is a program that works but is being manipulated on multiple residential sites with no residing validation process in place. These issues create challenges in the field, as work is being completed without proper inspections. At this time, the Department is going to shut this program off; not allowing any new homeowners to create HIPs. Customers will now be required to come to our office and meet with the Customer Service Center and CTAC Departments. Until we have taken care of all our flood customers, we will leave this program active.
Last month we processed 184 HIPs; some of which were decks. We will determine a strategy to retrain our customers and distribute this information to our entire customer base.
5. CHARLOTTE WATER - PRIVATE WATER
There has been a change in services that could potentially impact your project if it involves private water permitting.
Previously, Charlotte Water permitted and required engineer’s certification of site private water distribution two inches and larger from the meter to within five feet of the building on projects where there were multiple buildings on one parcel fed by a master meter.
Many designers/developers specify combination water meters -- these allow for both fire protection and drinking water needs to the developments through a single water meter. Under the N.C. Plumbing Code, backflow protection must be provided when there is a possibility of contamination to the potable water (drinking water). If a customer uses one of the combination meters and will also have private fire hydrants off of the same water lines, then a backflow assembly must be installed to each hydrant to protect the potable water. If there are separate potable water and fire line meters and water lines, then the hydrant can be installed off the fire line without any backflow protection, as it is not considered potable water. Backflow assembly review and inspection that protects the public Charlotte Water infrastructure is still required, and there are no changes to that County review process.
Effective July 1, 2019, Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement has begun permitting and inspecting these systems.
Here's what you need to know for future inspections that will be performed by Code Enforcement:
Our inspections will be open-ditch. Our inspectors must see the pipe to verify code items such as bedding, joints, material, slope, etc. This is a change from how these inspections were previously conducted.
Materials allowed may be different. Code Enforcement can only consent to materials allowed by the N.C. Plumbing Code. Previously, these materials were regulated by the state utility code.
Many designers/developers specify combination water meters -- these serve the sprinkler systems and the drinking water for the building. Under the N.C. Plumbing Code, backflow protection must be provided when there is a possibility of contamination to the potable water (drinking water). If a customer uses one of the combination meters and a combination line feeding the building, then a fire hydrant must be installed off that line, and a backflow device must be installed to protect the potable water. This is not required under the state utility requirements. If there are separate potable water and fire lines, then the hydrant can be installed off the fire line without any backflow protection, as it is not considered potable water.
Customers should be sure that the appropriate contractor (typically plumbing or utility) pulls the necessary permits from Code Enforcement, and those inspections are requested before the work is covered.