The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved the re-addition of four positions in the Community Development Department during its meeting Tuesday, with the positions of development specialist, associate planner, building inspector/plans examiner and code compliance offer set to come back online in the near future.
Patrick Doherty, community development director, explained the reasoning for these re-additions and also touched on the funding sources for these four positions.
“Over the past year, permit application volumes and/or values have in fact risen substantially, with 2013 ending with approximately $1 million in permit revenue above the level budgeted,” Doherty said.
This excess revenue will be one funding source, Doherty noted, but also shows the sharp increase in demand for the services the four positions will fulfill. According to statistics Doherty compiled, the 43 commercial building applications in 2013 were worth $18.1 million, compared to only 23 such applications worth $6.2 million in 2012.
Permit applications for multi-family buildings were also up significantly in 2013, with 71 applications submitted for projects worth $85.2 million. In 2012 there were only five applications with projects valued at $88,018.
Doherty continued with the statistics, showing that last year the city issued 3,271 permits and collected $2.1 million in fees. In 2012, the city issued 3,115 permits, with $1.5 million in fees coming in to the city’s coffers. Similar upticks in code complaints are driving the re-addition of that position, Doherty noted.
Finally, as far as the associate planner position is concerned, Doherty said Federal Way lags behind neighboring cities with the number of planning staff per 1,000 residents, with surrounding cities having a number of .12 planning staff per 1,000, compared to .04 per 1,000 in Federal Way.
According to the documents Doherty compiled for his presentation, the developmental specialist position would cost the city $63,586 annually, including all benefits. There’s a small start-up cost of $2,500 for the position, essentially for equipment and materials.
The associate planner position would earn $77,485 (all benefits included) and would also have a start-up cost of $2,500, while the building inspector/plans examiner would have an annual cost of $79,240 (benefits included).
The start-up cost for the inspector position is more considerable ($22,500) because that position would require a city vehicle. The code compliance office would also have that same start-up cost because of the need for a vehicle, and would have an annual cost of $73,757 (benefits included).
Doherty noted the tab for the code compliance officer could be picked up by Federal Way’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
“We can use our CDBG money to help with that,” he said. “In census tracts where 51 percent or more of residents are low-income households … they can charge one (full-time employee’s) worth of a CDBG staff person. That will be a real great assistance to us and just make a big difference overall, so not only will people feel like they’re having their calls responded to in a timely manner, they’ll see things getting improved without having to complain.”
Doherty noted the code compliance officer costs should be covered by the CDBG funds.
“The present forecast … is for continued robust permit application activity and large projects of higher valuation and greater complexity,” he said. “There’s a lot on the horizon and we expect that the higher permit volumes should continue this year, and not just the volumes, but the valuations.”
Councilmember Bob Celski thanked Doherty for the presentation, saying he thought Doherty did a commendable job of “not getting ahead of ourselves.”
“I’m certain our citizens will be happy accelerating the process and reducing backlogs and complaints,” he said. “A self look is always a good thing. I also really appreciate the tenderness with which you’re doing this in looking at the budget.” “Looking with that eye of caution.”