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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County Judge Barry Moehring recently reorganized a number of offices with the goal of improving service and efficiency.

Moehring split the planning, building inspection and environmental enforcement offices and assigned them to three supervisors. The three divisions had all been under the supervision of John Sudduth, the former general services administrator, who was also responsible for facilities maintenance and construction. After Sudduth resigned in February, Moehring hired Bryan Beeson to handle the facilities maintenance and construction duties and left the other offices operating independently while he studied them.

County planning

Benton County’s planning division is in the Bogle Family Building, 1204 S.W. 14th St. in Bentonville. The division moved in early April. More information about the planning process can be found on the county website at www.BentonCountyAR.gov under County Development.

Source: Benton County

Moehring said he used Rogers as a source of information in making his decisions. The county has placed Fire Marshal Marc Trollinger over the building division. In Rogers, that city's building permitting and inspection process was placed under the Fire Department about three years ago and operates in tandem with the fire inspection arm as the Community Risk Reduction Division.

"What they've done in Rogers and in other cities has streamlined the process for builders and developers," Moehring said. "There's much more coordination between the building inspectors and the fire inspectors."

Fire Chief Tom Jenkins said Rogers had a similar organization in the 1980s and 1990s but went away from it. As the city kept growing, he said, the separation began causing problems, and the building process became more time-consuming than it needed to be.

"People who were going to invest their money in building and developing in the city didn't want to get a building inspection one day and then have to wait a day or several days to get a fire inspection," Jenkins said. "We decided to combine building inspection and the fire marshal. They both enforce codes, some of it overlaps and some of it doesn't. But they both have the same interest. We want everything to be safe."

Jenkins said the city now assigns a project to a single person who guides it through the process. Tom Allen, a justice of the peace, is also executive vice president and principal with Sage Partners, which deals in commercial real estate development and brokerage. Allen said the process adopted by Rogers has worked. He said the city was very helpful in the company's development of the 10-story Hunt Tower, a 230,000-square-foot building at 5100 J.B. Hunt Drive.

"The change was needed and has been very positive," Allen said. "The fewer people we have to wait for to come out and do an inspection, the less time it takes, and time is money. We also used to have different interpretations from different people in the city at times. That has changed. There was a learning curve, they learned and we learned. But I think it's a very good model for the county to follow."

Moehring said his reorganization plans for the environmental division are also meant to make the process more efficient. That division has been placed under Robert McGowen, public safety administrator, and the employees will be moved to the basement of the County Administration Building. That puts it in the same area as the emergency management and emergency communication operations.

"This puts them closer to dispatch and our law enforcement communications," McGowen said. "Environmental hazards are public safety hazards."

Moehring also promoted Taylor Reamer to head of the planning department, which will be a separate department reporting to the county judge. Reamer replaces Kevin Gambril, who left the county to take a planning job with Bella Vista. Reamer has been with the planning department since December 2014 as a planner and then planning manager. Reamer said the new job will require much of the same knowledge but with added responsibilities.

"The new responsibilities include being the main point of contact for the planning division," he said. "I'll be responding to citizens and developers, surveyors and engineers."

General News on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: Benton County shifts planning, inspection and environmental offices

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