The city of Bend is adding employees in response to the rebound in the construction industry.
The City Council recently approved a plan to hire eight more employees, on top of the 15 new hires already included in the current budget.
During the recession, the city shed 110 jobs.
Five of the new employees will help the city process building permits and maintain development data. The city will also hire a planner and civil engineer earlier than anticipated, due to construction activity.
Current Planning Manager Colin Stephens said the civil engineer will review private developers’ plans to connect new buildings to the city sewer and street systems.
“We did over 800 single-family dwellings last fiscal year,” said Building Division Manager Joe McClay. “This year, we’ve already had over 400 single-family dwelling applications in the first four months (of the fiscal year).”
As of Oct. 28, the city had already brought in $1.6 million from permits and other building services in the fiscal year that began in July, Chief Financial Officer Sonia Andrews wrote in an email.
That is 45 percent more revenue than budgeted. During the same time period, the city received $572,000 in revenue for land use planning services.
That is 32 percent more revenue than budgeted, Andrews wrote.
The Engineering and Infrastructure Planning Department collected $195,000 in fees on private development so far this fiscal year, 56 percent more than budgeted.
McClay said he began working for the city in 2005, near the peak in the construction boom. The experience of laying off employees during the recession stuck with him.
“It’s been really hard to see all those people go,” McClay said. “When you’re laying all the people off, (as) we were a few years ago, you’re hesitant to start staffing up again.”
As building activity began to increase, McClay said the Building Division “started paying a lot of overtime, which is less than a permanent employee.”
Recently, the turnaround time for building services such as issuing permits exceeded what McClay considers acceptable.
“Our goal is to have single-family dwellings (permits) turned around and out of here in 10 days,” McClay said.
Over the summer, the processing time reached 20 days.
Planners are also working hard to keep up with the increase in development. Stephens said a land use planner the city hired on a temporary basis in June was slated to become a permanent employee in 2014.
“We’ve got sufficient revenue and sufficient incoming permits to make that permanent early,” Stephens said of the position.
The goal is for city planners to finish reviewing minor land use decisions in 20 days and complex decisions in 60 days. Although they have continued to meet those goals in most cases, “the staff has been working on overdrive to achieve that,” Stephens said.
The city will also hire an administrative employee to work in the city manager’s office, a technology specialist in the Police Department and a grant-funded employee to coordinate services for people with mental illness.