Earlier this month, the Napa City Council and the Napa County Board of Supervisors held a rare joint session to discuss the possible consolidation and co-locating of various departments. Many city and county have apparently overlapping services that seem redundant but are often necessary to provide unique services. For example, the sheriff and police department’s have different missions and provide dissimilar services. Consolidated may not reduce staff, costs or increase efficiency. However sharing call centers might be effective.
Napa city and county have several overlapping responsibilities that could benefit by combining services. There are six building departments in the county, each using the same California Building Code, Green Building Code, Federal ADA and a host of other common regulations. Even the plan check and permit fees are regulated by the state. School fees, special local ordinances and utility connection fees are distinct to the local jurisdiction and are added to the basic permit fee. Why not combine all of the building departments under one roof? At the very least, sharing of county wide personnel would make sense.
Recently, it was noted that there is not one structural engineering plan checker in any of the six Napa County towns, thus requiring sub-contracting with an outside consultant. While the fees are 100 percent recoverable, it would still be more effective to have a structural engineer within one of the county towns that could be shared rather than send money to a Pleasanton firm.
This is not intended to weaken our local building departments but rather strengthen response time when the economy improves and permits are requested. By consolidating or sharing services they would be able to apply more universal interpretations of the codes. Currently, Napa city and St. Helena are discussing such a venture.
The toughest obstacle to overcome may well be diverse the individual department cultures or styles that could be reluctant to consider change. Municipal department interactions and procedures can often be impediments. This could be a lesson in how future county and city departments merge or co-mingle.
Welcome to the real world of corporate downsizing.