About $7.3 million allocated to more staff, new permitting software program and vehicles for county’s Planning and Development Services Department

Reorganization of department designed to keep up with increasing permit workload, staff says

Matt Osterhoudt, director of the Planning and Development Services Department, addresses the commissioners on April 21. News Leader image

In early April, Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis talked of plans to reorganize the Planning and Development Services Department, partly in an effort to ensure that its director, Matt Osterhoudt, does not get burned out from long work hours.

During the County Commission’s regular meeting on April 20, that proposed reorganization won approval, with a total of $7,328,222 allocated to it.

The item was listed on the agenda as “Presentation Upon Request.” No commissioner asked for staff comments, and no one had signed up to address the issue.

After Chair Alan Maio formally closed the public hearing, Commissioner Michael Moran made the motion to approve the funding request, and Commissioner Nancy Detert seconded it. The motion passed 5-0.

An April 20 staff memo, provided to the board members in advance of the meeting, explained, “The Planning and Development Services Department continues to experience increasing and significantly high workload volumes. Much of the workload relates to the very active development and construction industries …” (See the related article in this issue.)

Further, the memo noted, “[T]he overall scope of the department has grown over time,” and the complexity and demands of the workload continue to increase. As a result, the memo added, several strategies have been identified “to enhance the department’s overall resource capacity to provide exceptional quality services given the significantly high workload volume.”

The funding the commissioners approved will be allocated to the implementation of new permitting software, the addition of four vehicles for the Building Division fleet, and several new employees, the memo noted.

Among the latter, the memo said, will be a new administrative specialist for the Business Services Division; 2.6 Building Code inspectors and five other employees for the Building Division; and a new manager, two planners and a zoning counselor for the Planning and Zoning Division.

Often, when a partial staffing position is listed for one division, that indicates the person will be working partly for another division, as well.

During an April 21 presentation to the commissioners about streamlining county permitting processes, Osterhoudt, the Planning and Development Services director, thanked the commissioners for approving the funding the previous day.

On April 6, County Administrator Lewis and commission Chair Alan Maio also pointed out that Michele Norton, who has been manager of the Planning and Zoning Division, will become the assistant director of Planning and Development.

The funds for the reorganization will be taken from a variety of different sources within the county budget, the April 20 staff memo explained. The largest portion — $323,765,916 — will come out of the General Fund’s fund balance. The General Fund comprises multiple types of revenue, including property tax payments and sales tax revenue.

This chart shows the sources of funding for the budget amendment the commissioners approved for the Planning and Development Services initiatives. Image courtesy Sarasota County