Eastpointe outsources Building Department for 2 years

By: Brian Louwers | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published November 24, 2021

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EASTPOINTE — The city of Eastpointe has moved to outsource its Building Department services for the next two years after officials said an audit showed the department had “long-term, systemic issues” that affected its function and level of service.

On Nov. 8, City Manager Elke Doom told members of the Eastpointe City Council that the city had begun transitioning the department’s services to McKenna, a municipal planning, design and building services contractor that the city currently uses in other areas.

Doom addressed the topic at the meeting, she said, in order to provide clarity about the decision and the path forward.

“We certainly knew that there were issues with the Building Department,” Doom said. “There were structural issues as far as skill sets, learning, taking a look at just how the entire operations were. Council was wise and approved an audit of the department, which brought even more clarity to how permits were being processed, how inspections were being processed and the systems, how people learned the programs.

“Based upon that audit and the information that was provided to our council, what we’ve done is, council made a very brave move, and I applaud them for it. It shows that they care about the community and they want to make the Building Department be as efficient and effective as possible,” Doom said.

Assistant City Manager Mariah Walton confirmed that two union employees in the department were kept and are now working with McKenna to receive added training in BS&A, the software used by Eastpointe and many other municipalities for online services.

Walton said 11 nonunion employees were laid off. That included mechanical (plumbing and electrical) contractors whose contracts with the city ended, part-time clerical staffers, part-time rental and code enforcement officers, and a full-time rental inspector, in addition to the department’s administration.

Doom said some “but not all” of the laid-off employees could be called for interviews by other city departments.

Walton and Doom said those who have relevant skill sets had their information forwarded to McKenna for further discussion about opportunities with the company in Eastpointe or elsewhere.

“The audit really did show that we had some long-term, systemic issues. It was very clear, and the department needed to be revamped,” Doom said. “It needed a professional with the knowledge and experience to run this department effectively and efficiently, and although we had good people working for us, there was a lack of general knowledge, understanding how the programs work and also providing the services that our community deserves.

“They need to have a quick turnaround on permits. They need to be able to come in and know they’ll get the information correctly the first time,” Doom said.

Council members offered no further comment after Doom’s remarks. Doom said McKenna staff was at City Hall Nov. 8 to begin work.

Officials did say that the council had been clear that it wished to return the department’s functions in-house once the issues had been resolved.

“The idea is, once they’re done reorganizing and kind of streamlining everything, we’ll bring it back in-house at that 24-month mark,” Walton said.