YORK, Maine — A strong economy with a concurrent rise in building projects throughout town have left Code Enforcement Office Director Amber Harrison and Town Planner Dylan Smith “overloaded” with work.
There are 11 active Planning Board applications — including several large subdivisions, a new Center for Wildlife campus and a residential development on the Davis property in York Village. The code enforcement office in 2017 issued 863 building permits, performed 2,424 inspections and handled 3,154 code counter visits — all up from the year before.
Harrison and Kathy Newell are the only full-time CEOs on staff; two other town employees have primary duties in other areas of town government and help part-time in code. Since the departure of assistant planner Scott Hastings a year ago, Smith has been a department of one, handling all applications and devoting little time for big-picture planning work.
For these reasons, the town is seeking voter approval to hire someone who would work 60 percent in the code office and 40 percent in the planning office. Question 4 on the ballot, which funds municipal government, includes the money for this position. Taxpayer dollars would cover $66,250, with the remainder of the $90,000 salary and benefits package coming from building permit revenue.
Harrison said it’s difficult to understate how busy both departments are. “There’s a lot of need in very small package,” she said of the position.
This person will be a jack of all trades, in many regards. Harrison said each CEO has to take about eight exams for state licensing in such areas as plumbing, septic and flood plain management, “and we’re looking for someone who has a lot of those. Permits have doubled in the last six years. Site inspections are in the 3,000 to 4,000 mark.”
And the statistics she’s amassed do not include follow-up visits on permits that have been issued. Newell is conducting up to 12 inspections a day, said Harrison. Now that it’s spring, the business license inspections begin to increase.
Meanwhile, Smith is looking for someone to review applications — which can take up to 30 hours per applicant — as well as to be staff liaison to the Planning Board and a host of committees including the bicycle and pedestrian committee and the historic district commission. This would free him up to work on land use policy, the comprehensive plan and other broad work.
He said not so long ago, there was a community development department with three staff. Most towns York’s size or smaller have more than one planner as well as administrative staff, he said, including Kittery, Scarborough, Wells, Windham and Falmouth. Kennebunk and Sanford are budgeting for another position his year, he said.
Both said they look forward to the day when their departments are properly staffed, but in the meanwhile, this new person will take the edge off the worst of the overload. They anticipate this person will be a bridge between the two departments, as well, collaborating on site visits, preconstruction meetings and permitting for Planning Board approved projects.
They said they hope that voters look favorably on their request for this position.
“Dylan and I both can use a lot of help,” said Harrison.
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