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Plan to improve city's customer service could get Council vote Wednesday

A Cincinnati Council committee will hold a special meeting Wednesday to vote on administrative changes the city manager is seeking to improve customer service.

The Rules and Audit Committee heard about the ordinance Tuesday but delayed taking a vote.

On Monday, City Manager Harry Black issued a memo outlining several organizational changes he wants to make “to increase efficiency, effectiveness and especially customer service.”

The biggest change would be splitting the current Planning and Buildings department into two separate units.  The new building department would handle plans examination, inspections, property maintenance code enforcement and also administer the city's zoning code.  Planning would still be in charge of the legislative parts of zoning, rezoning and planned developments.    

The manager's proposal also revamps the permitting and plan review processes to make them more customer friendly.  

In addition, weed and litter control functions currently handled by the health department would move to public services.  

City council must approve changes to the administrative code to allow the changes.  

Council member Kevin Flynn said he supports Black's proposal for several reasons.

“Streamlining the activities that we all want to move forward, getting people who want to building our city their permits as quickly and efficiently as possible, and clearing out the blight that ruins property values in our various neighborhoods,” Flynn said.

Since the plan involves changes to city departments, it requires seven council members to vote in favor.  

Vice Mayor David Mann said he also supports the manager's ideas.  But he wanted more time to review the ordinance that will implement them.

“It’s a lot of change and we haven’t had it except for a couple of hours,” Mann said.  “I think getting some more information will make sure that we proceed thoughtfully and effectively.”

Mann said he'll do his best to review the document and get his questions answered before the vote.  He had earlier supported a special meeting next week to discuss the ordinance.

City officials are trying to get the changes in place soon because department directors are preparing budgets for the new fiscal year which starts July 1st.  

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.