Jefferson County Department of Community Development facing staffing issues

Workload impacted by employees leaving

PORT TOWNSEND — Staffing issues continue to hamper the Jefferson County Department of Community Development as the loss of employees is impacting the department’s workload capacity.

Speaking to the Board of County Commissioners on Monday, DCD Director Brent Butler said there had been several resignations from the department, the most he’s seen during his tenure.

“We had been able to focus almost exclusively on permitting,” Butler said. “We’re going to have to focus on recruiting again.”

The department has a backlog of permit applications being processed, and the loss of staff is impacting the department’s ability to complete that work.

According to meeting documents, five positions in the department have become vacant since February, including the code compliance officer, who also served as the lead for the county’s new permitting software, Energov.

Additionally, the county’s moratorium on site development review ended in October, significantly increasing the department’s workload.

“While the SDR process will improve with time, DCD is still in a critical phase with 76 completed reviews out of approximately 264 SDR applications submitted as of March 15,” the documents said. “This process resulted in a reduction in the level of customer services, meaning permit review times have increased.”

The department has also experienced issues with the Energov permit application system, the first new permitting system the county has adopted in nearly 30 years.

Butler told commissioners that several staff members who had attended training sessions on the Energov system have since left the department.

Employment changes are typical during times when the economy is also shifting, Butler said.

County Administrator Mark McCauley said the department had lost employees to other local governments, including the City of Port Townsend, that were able to pay more for similar work. The county is awaiting responses from collective bargaining units and is looking for ways to improve compensation.

The county has looked at bringing in consultants to help with the workload, McCauley said, and will likely bring additional funding requests to the board during the supplemental budget process.

Staffing issues have already caused a certain level of frustration among community members, said DCD Deputy Director Josh Peters, and staff departures have meant that workloads have needed to be redistributed.

Additionally, Butler said the Washington Association of Building Officials is in the process of updating building codes in line with the International Code Council, which will likely require the department to provide additional technical assistance to homebuilders and other applicants.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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