Change is underway in the city of Kerrville’s Development Services department — the office that oversees building permits, code enforcement and inspections.
The improvements are the result of nearly two months of work to determine how and why errors were made and create new systems to prevent them.
But it will take more time to completely correct the operational problems that contributed to the mistakes in the first place. City Manager Mark McDaniel made that clear when he addressed Kerrville City Council members and city staff in a workshop Tuesday to present plans for improvement and respond to questions the city has received about apparent inconsistencies in permitting practices and address accusations of selective code enforcement.
The city’s investigation into these issues revealed several areas for improvement, including processes, outdated software, poorly written codes, staff turnover and vaguely defined staff responsibilities.
Many of the broken process they uncovered were decades old and can’t be corrected overnight. Change takes time and significant investment.
McDaniel estimated roughly $11,000 in labor costs, about 150 work hours, went into the creation of the report, which uncovered the problems in the department and mapped out plans for improvement.
That investment also is reflected in the city’s 2017 creation of a department dedicated to handling analysis and improvement projects.
Helmed by Executive Director of Innovation Guillermo Garcia, McDaniel said the department is modeled after the private sector and its intense drive to improve performance and achieve operational efficiency through effective processes and waste reduction. Garcia’s thorough investigation into what led to the flawed permitting of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce’s electronic sign not only details missteps, but also provides a list of four corrective actions.
While the errors that led to the creation of this report are unfortunate, the resulting process of analysis and improvement is promising.
Some changes already have been made, and city staff expects most others to be complete by September. In less than a year, the city may well have corrected decades-old systemic problems that should have been discovered by prior city leaders.
The good news is the methodology works. But what project will the city tackle next, and what will it take to apply this level of scrutiny?
Let’s not wait for another high-profile error.
We’ve got the tools; let’s use them.