City, county to consolidate code enforcement departments, two county positions to be closed

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In a 5-1 vote, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners chose to consolidate the county’s planning department with the City of Bainbridge at its meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners George Anderson was the dissenting vote.

Two county jobs will be terminated once the consolidation goes into effect on March 1: the director of development services, occupied by Craig Smith, and the permit clerk, occupied by Peggy Richardson.

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Decatur County Chairman Dennis Brinson said the positions both Smith and Richardson had were valued, but ultimately the decision was based on the opportunity to save money and work alongside the city.

Decatur County Administrator Alan Thomas agreed that the decision was cost effective, and will hopefully provide a more uniform process for builders.

“In the long run, what I hope it to do is the city and the county’s building codes and regulations are going to be identical,” Thomas said. “So a contractor coming to Decatur County, whether it’s inside or outside the city, is going to be required to go by the same rules and regulations. There are some differences and variations to them now. If we can get them uniform, it will be easier on the contractors.”

No contract has been signed yet, and the motion passed was a verbal commitment by the county to merge.

City Manager Chris Hobby said rather than this being a city department, he would prefer to look at it as a Decatur County department.

“The name of the marshal’s office will be changed from ‘City of Bainbridge’ to ‘Bainbridge-Decatur County’,” Hobby said. “We will begin performing that service on a county-wide basis. For the public, the immediate change they will experience is they will only have to come to one place, whether construction work is in the city or county.”

The City of Bainbridge currently has a planning department position open for deputy marshal, for which they are accepting applications now. Thomas said Smith, the county’s director of development services, will have the opportunity to apply to the job once his position with the county ends March 1.

The deputy marshal will be fully funded by Decatur County, Hobby said.

One of the first projects Thomas and Hobby have looked at under the consolidated planning department is proactively policing the county’s litter problem. More projects are being discussed, but the most immediate effect will be contractors visiting one location for building permits.

“I just applaud the spirit that Alan (Thomas) has brought to his job and in breaking down any barriers that were there prior,” Hobby said.

The Decatur County planning department’s goal is to protect the public’s safety, health and general welfare and to maintain quality of life in the community while preserving its lifestyle and values, according to the Decatur County website.

Click to read more about the City of Bainbridge’s and Decatur County’s planning departments.