Mesa may combine several departments - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa may combine several departments

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Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 8:39 pm | Updated: 9:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Last month, Mesa management announced a proposal to trim spending by $62 million over the next year-and-a-half, eliminate about 350 jobs, possibly change work hours and consolidate several departments.

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This month, key departments are presenting their plans to deal with the revenue decline.

Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said at Monday's council meeting, which focused on a consolidated Development and Sustainability Department, that the emphasis is on improving processes and restructuring departments such that the remaining staff and resources are used to provide core services.

This proposed new department combines planning, building safety and code compliance, as well as the city's environmental and water conservation divisions.

Specialist positions, which are often needed for big development or specialized projects, are likely to be outsourced when they are needed.

Brady said even if the construction economy rebounds, the city is moving to a "different model of employment base." That means Mesa will not hire full-time employees every time there's an upturn in construction projects.

The city will be careful about creating specialist positions because they are less flexible in a changing economy, Brady said.

Mesa will retain and hire employees who provide core services and will be needed long-term, but have the flexibility to contract specialists for large developments.

In the new department, which will be headed by Development Services Department Director Christine Zielonka, building inspectors will be cross-trained to do code compliance work.

"I want to emphasize that this is a very flattened organizational structure compared to what we've had in the past," Zielonka said.

Monday's presentation, which focused on development services, was slim on details about exactly how many positions are being eliminated in the three departments or who is going to take on what role. Code compliance inspectors are being cut from 13 to six.

Other plans include consolidating inspections such as air quality, grading and drainage, currently done by different departments.

Reviews for zoning, fire and building plans are currently done by separate departments. These will also be consolidated and done by one group of people.

City Planning Director John Wesley noted that Mesa will establish design standards early on for a project, for instance, so it doesn't come up too late in the review process. Right now, a developer first goes through a site plan review and then a design review process, which can cause time delays.

Councilman Scott Somers raised a point about if and how the city plans to train staffers to take on multidisciplinary roles, now that some specialist positions will be eliminated.

That will be an ongoing challenge, officials acknowledged, although Wesley said some staff training has started already.

Brady said the recent voter-approved city rental inspection program will be "strengthened" under a new arrangement in which building inspectors who have experience and expertise in looking for building code violations and health safety issues related to building code, will be the ones doing the rental inspection.

On Thursday, the city's transportation, police and library departments will present their proposals for the council to consider.

The meeting is at 7:30 a.m. at the City Council Chambers at 57 E. First St. The council is expected to give direction to the departments in its Dec. 18 meeting.

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