Mayor Kristen Brown plans to give the responsibility for zoning inspections back to Bartholomew County, but county officials are not yet sure they will be able to do the work.
As part of the mayor’s plan to create a new business development position in city government, she would take away the responsibility for zoning inspections from a vacated position in the city/county planning department and turn that job into a business development coordinator.
The city has conducted the city zoning inspections for about eight years. The position has been vacant for several weeks, according to the city clerk-treasurer’s office.
County Commissioner President Carl Lienhoop said he originally believed Brown was reducing the number of employees in city government when she told him of her plans to give the zoning duties back to the county. But he was surprised to find out later that she was planning to keep the same number of jobs but change the job duties.
Lienhoop said he is hopeful that the county building and zoning department can handle the extra work, but the county is still evaluating how it could be done and cannot yet guarantee that it can be done. County officials also are evaluating which responsibilities are valid zoning-enforcement roles, and which are city ordinances they could not enforce, he said.
Lienhoop said the county and city have shown there are benefits to sharing costs and responsibilities where possible.
“If she (Brown) wants to differentiate and separate departments, I guess that is not efficiency in government,” Lienhoop said. “I think we feel like we have a pretty good working model between what gets done in our building and what gets done in her building. I suppose there could always be discussion and investigation into that.”
“We’ve got a long history in the planning department in City Hall, and the code enforcement office in our building working together and working well. I just don’t see where there is a problem to fix.”
Over the past year, the mayor has raised questions about several long-standing city-county cooperative agreements, including:
- The cost of the emergency operations center.
- Who pays for stormwater gauges on Haw Creek.
- What company would provide emergency ambulance service in the city and county and who would pay to subsidize it.
- The operations of the Bartholomew County Landfill.
At the Feb. 5 City Council meeting, the mayor asked rhetorically why the city was paying for planning services for the county. This week she said that the planning arrangement does fall into an area of concern for her.
Brown argues that city residents also pay county taxes. When the city picks up part of the cost for these services, the city taxpayers are essentially paying twice — once in their county taxes and again through their city taxes.
“The city is in the county,” Brown said. “If we have a countywide service, it should be funded at the county level.”
But Brown said she doesn’t plan to tackle the city/county planning department because she has been unsuccessful in her previous efforts.