Finding new ways to serve the building community | TheUnion.com

Finding new ways to serve the building community

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

Nevada County's Building Department is reaching out by branching out.

The county building department is opening a branch office in Grass Valley at the Nevada County Contractors' Association (NCCA) headquarters. It will be staffed one-half day per week by an experienced building department employee.

"We're providing customer service in a private business fashion instead of the typical government fashion," said Nevada County Building Department Director Craig Griesbach. "We're giving different options to customers while using existing resources."

A building department worker will staff the kiosk on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Making it easier

People will be able to submit building applications and project resubmittals, obtain over-the-counter permits, get fee estimates, and receive answers to general building permit and plan check questions.

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"Contractors have long come here to have their plans copied, and soon the kiosk will be right here to submit them," said NCCA Executive Director Barbara Bashall. "Many people use the services of the architect and engineers upstairs here at the NCCA, then come downstairs and we print their blue print copies. Now, at least a half-day each week, customers won't have to drive to the county offices in Nevada City."

When the kiosk is not staffed by a county employee, it will still function as a self-serve office Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

People will be able to submit applications online, schedule building inspections, check the status of their submitted plans, complete property research, and access forms on the county building department website. Nevada County Contractors' Association staff will be available to help, said Bashall.

This Thursday, the kiosk will serve only the Nevada County Contractors' Association members in what amounts to a "soft opening." Beginning Thursday, Nov. 16, the kiosk will be open to anyone who needs it.

"Everything we have in our main office, we have a smaller version at the satellite office," said Griesbach. "Pretty much everything we do here (at the Rood Center) we can do up there (at the NCCA)."

County building and technology employees have been busy setting up the kiosk for several weeks. The design includes a computer, printer, copier, and scanner. Final touches include ensuring staff computers are networked correctly.

"Convenience is only one benefit of the branch office," said Griesbach.

"A lot of people are afraid to come to the county offices because it can be intimidating," he said. "If we can get those people in the office that wouldn't have come otherwise, maybe they'll be more inclined to get a permit when they go to build a garage or whatever."

Bashall agrees.

"Sometimes people aren't comfortable going into the county building," Bashall said. "This will encourage folks to get those permits they might not have gotten because it's in a more relaxed environment."

More potential permits may lead to more money, employees, and services — at least that's the hope of Sam Marsico, a Nevada County Contractors' Association board member and owner of Marsico Custom Homes.

"I hope the kiosk will bring in people who wouldn't ordinarily get a permit," he said. "The benefit would be more revenue for the building department. They are self-sustaining and supported by the fees they charge, not the county general fund.

"Perhaps the department would be able to increase staff and make the overall experience that much better by hiring more plan checkers and building inspectors."

One-stop shop

Ray Byers, Jr., Operations Manager at Byers Enterprises, Inc. and NCCA board member, said his employees make the trek to the building department at the Rood Center in Nevada County a half-dozen times each week.

"The kiosk is going to make life a little easier," said Byers. "There's going to be a quicker turn at the counter. It's basically going to be a one-stop shop."

The Nevada County Contractors' Association is a nonprofit organization with 320 members comprised of general contractors, sub-contractors, building material suppliers, and other businesses related to the construction industry.

NCCA advocates for the local building trades, including promoting high standards and ethical practices.

Marsico said exposure to the NCCA while visiting the building department's kiosk could prompt more local contractors to join the NCCA.

"I hope it helps some of the local contractors who are not members to see how hard Barbara and the NCCA board have worked to develop a good relationship with Craig and the county," Marsico said. "That could encourage them to become members of the NCCA."

Establishing a satellite office outside the government center is the latest in a series of steps Griesbach has taken since assuming the helm of the building department in 2014.

Untangling the red tape

As the department continues to streamline procedures while complying with regulations, and contractors continue to increase efficiency, costs to homeowners and other clients may decrease. After all, time is money.

Contractors such as Byers said they appreciate what the building department is doing to untangle red tape.

"For example, after a roof tear-off, you used to have to wait for the inspector to check it before you could start anything else," he said. "You'd take a half-day to tear off the roof, then wait for an inspector to come out. After you resumed work, next there was an inspection of the sheeting and nail pattern.

"Now, Nevada County allows us to put 50 percent of roof back on after the tear-off. One inspection covers both the tear-off and the sheeting and nail pattern. Instead of not being able to work while waiting for inspections, the contractor never has to leave the job."

"We're really fortunate to have someone like Craig," said Marsico. "His work ethic amazes me. Every time you have an issue or question about job-site logistics or technical details, the guy responds the same day, every time, without fail."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS

WHAT: Nevada County Building Department Satellite Office at the Nevada County Contractors’ Association

WHERE: 149 Crown Point Circle, Grass Valley

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays

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