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Green Belt project saves residents time and money

The timing couldn’t have been better when the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit informed the City they would not be renewing their contract for Ontario Building Code Part 8 delivery last fall.
Except for a period between 1999 and 2002, the City had historically contracted the Health Unit for the administration of sewage system management, including providing permits, reviews, inspections and other related activities for private septic systems.

In October 2013, Chief Building Official Susanne Murchison had just completed Green Belt training as part of the City’s Initiatives Management program, and immediately set to work on examining the options available to the City outlining septic system inspection and service delivery options.

“The timing couldn’t have been better,” explained Ms. Murchison. “We knew we had to start looking at the options and the Green Belt tools were great. It really helped keep us focused.”

With a team consisting of Building Department admin assistant Lori Ferguson, Health Unit Public Health Inspector Anne Elmhirst, Murchison, Part 3 Plans Examiner, and Deputy Chief Building Official Derryk Wolven and Part 3 Inspector Cedric D’Sa, work began on examining the two main options available to the City.

The City had two viable options for the Part 8 sewage System Program delivery; Option A would be to bring the service in-house and Option B would be to negotiate a service delivery contract with the Kawartha Region Conservation Authority. The Building Code Act specifies that the Council of each municipality is responsibility for the enforcement of the Act within the municipality.

Using the Green Belt tools available, the team looked at the previous five years of permits applications to understand historical volume, as well as costs and potential benefits associated with bringing the program in-house.

Though a daunting program with tight deadlines, the group was able to acquire the data and analyze the results in only 49 days.

“When you try and attack something on your own it is really easy to get off track,” explained Ms. Murchison. “Being able to do this as a Green Belt project was great. It kept us all on topic and kept the team focused on what we were trying to accomplish.”

From left to right, Building Department Administrative Assistant Lori Ferguson, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit Public Health Inspector Anne Elmhirst, Chief Building Official Susanne Murchison, Part 3 Plans Examiner and Deputy Chief Building Official Derryk Wolven and Part 3 Inspector Cedric D'Sa.

(r to l) Building Department Administrative Assistant Lori Ferguson, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit Public Health Inspector Anne Elmhirst, Chief Building Official Susanne Murchison, Part 3 Plans Examiner and Deputy Chief Building Official Derryk Wolven and Part 3 Inspector Cedric D'Sa.

In assessing the types of permits, reviews, inspections and daily activities required to be performed within the scope of the Part 8 Sewage System Program, it was recommended that the most effective staffing model would entail two full-time staff. This would ensure a specialized skill set and a go-to section for public inquiries within the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Recognizing the City’s current inspection staff compliment within the Building Division had no practical ‘in-field’ experience in Part 8, coupled with the fact many existing staff did not have certification for inspecting sewage systems and issuing compliance orders under the Building Code, the Green Belt team recommended creating an in-house team to take over Part 8 Sewage System Program delivery.

A model was created resulting in a Part 8 Sewage Systems Coordinator and a Part 8 Inspector. The result would be a seamless transition from the Health Unit to the City with in-house expertise, specialization and consistency in Part 8 service delivery. The in-house option would also provide an enhanced efficient permit and development approval process.

“What this does is allow the City to become a one-stop-shop for permit applications,” said Ms. Murchison. “Currently, applications have to be brought into the Health Unit here in Lindsay. With the in-house option people will be able to drop off sewage system applications at any City of Kawartha Lakes service centres as well as bringing them to the Building Division in Lindsay.”

On December 10, 2013, City Council approved bringing the program delivery in-house resulting in tremendous advantages.

“We will be housing the team of two individuals in the Building Department where they will work out of, and because things like insurance, rent and hydro are already being paid on the building, we anticipate an approximate $17,000 cost avoidance as a result of bringing this program in-house,” said Ms. Murchison.

As for the individuals applying for permits, the news gets even better. Aside from being able to visit their nearest service centre to drop off applications, some of the fee costs are also being reduced.

“This program is being operated on a 100% cost recovery basis,” explained Ms. Murchison. “So we charge an appropriate amount to recoup our costs.”

Currently the new full system fee through the Health Unit is $875. When the City of Kawartha Lakes takes over delivery of the program on June 2, 2014, the fee for the same new full system will be $650, a $225 price drop over current fees.

For local residents the benefits continue with the centralization of a number of related programs not previously offered through a single department or organization.

The City’s new Part 8 Sewage System Program will expand to include delivery of a re-inspection program, as mandated by the Ontario Building Code and in conjunction with the Source Water Protection Programs, public outreach and education, as well as coordination with the City of Kawartha Lakes septic loan program.

“I think this is really a win-win for everyone,” said Ms. Murchison. “There is no tax impact on residents as this is structured as a cost recovery model, this will provide a one-stop shopping approach for the applicant and the costs will be potentially lower for applicants, not to mention improving the permit process cycle time.”

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