Monroe County must do a better job of serving residents, according to the administrator, who has notified the Building and Growth Management departments they are under a "customer service watch."
Administrator Roman Gastesi said he has put employees on notice and will monitor their performance, take complaints seriously and follow up with customer satisfaction surveys to ensure improvements.
Starting May 1, survey forms will be available at the front counter of each Growth Management office and be included in the materials issued for each building permit and code violation, Growth Management Director Andrew Trivette wrote in a recent memo to county employees.
"Effective immediately the division will initiate a customer service watch, informing each employee that customer service is a priority and must be improved," Trivette wrote. "Under this watch, each complaint will be investigated and reported upon at department head meetings each week."
Gastesi and Trivette will emphasize the importance of improving customer service at a Code Enforcement staff meeting on Tuesday and Building staff meeting on April 17.
Another goal is decreasing the time it takes to review a building permit. To that end, building officials will monitor the process and report the duration monthly to Trivette.
Trivette will request the county hire two people to evaluate the efficiency of permit review and expedite the process, as well as guide an application from permitting to construction completion with scheduled inspections. He wants to fill one vacant administrative position in Growth Management's Key Largo office and combine two part-time positions into one full-time position in Building's Marathon office.
Part of what prompted Gastesi's campaign are the complaints he has heard during eight of the 24 meetings he has scheduled throughout the Florida Keys to develop a long-term business plan for the county.
"It's apparent so far that the issue has been Building and Code Enforcement departments," Gastesi said. "It's all about compliance and it's about customer service."
Gastesi also is considering changing the name of Code Enforcement to Code Compliance, to reflect a kinder, gentler office.
Code Enforcement can be a political and confrontational job, as officers tell landowners what they can and cannot do with their property. Recently, officers specifically have been criticized about how they have handled downstairs-enclosure inspections and sandwich board-type signs along U.S. 1.
The county and Federal Emergency Management Agency, which demanded the county inspect downstairs enclosures, are scheduled to meet this or next month to discuss a plan to grant homeowners amnesty from inspections. And the County Commission recently agreed to not enforce the sign ordinance until it can write a new one that gives businesses more leeway.