As the Director of the Department of Community Development Jim Herrman said a lot of his work so far has been devoted to making things more efficient for the township and easier for the residents.
It has been three months since the former Birdsall Services Group employee made the transition from assistant director under former colleague Jim Priolo. Since that time they have worked to bring the township’s engineering, construction, land use, planning, housing and code enforcement divisions under one roof among others.
The work of the department, he said, has helped to make smoother internal work processes, reduce permit review time and smooth out the entire application process. Going from being a corporate employee to a public servant has taken some getting used to. “When I was down here as the assistant I was doing much of what I did previously, only I’m doing a lot more of the administration work now that Jim (Priolo) was doing before.”
Herrman said one big difference is the fact that the township does not have as many resources as a larger corporation like Birdsall did. “At Birdsall we had every service you could provide,” he said. If a question came up that he could not answer there was someone else in the company that could help. “We have the abilities, we just don’t have the exact experts.”
Going from being the person townships turned to for help to the person residents turn to in order to get things done has also taken some getting used to. “As a consultant I was always concerned with making townships happy, making my clients happy, making sure the jobs got done correctly and constructed properly.” His job now means working with residents to help answer their questions about working within the rules of the township.
For residents and potential businesses looking to come into the town, Herrman said his main goal has been to streamline the application process. “Generally people come in with questions on the process,” he said. “The process isn’t very well spelled out so we’ve taken great strides in helping people and laying out the process of how you do everything.”
The Township recently made building permit applications available online and Herrman said the goal is to add more options in the near future. For people who do not have access to a computer or are not comfortable submitting applications online, Herrman said they can still come down to the new Municipal Building to file for paper permits.
Prior to helping to start the department Herrman admitted he did not know a lot about hte township which has been good and bad for different reasons. “I don’t know the players, I don’t know the history I don’t know any of that stuff,” he said. “I operate the same way no matter what.” Because of that he said he can make things run the way he wants to while relying on other people in the department who might know more about the township from before he started working here.
The changes he has implemented may take some getting used to, but Herrman said he believes they will prove positive in the future. “This is the way we’ve always done it,” is one answer Herrman said he has tried to remove from the department’s vocabulary and has made progress with showing what can be done. “With the advent of technology we still have forms that were older. This brings them up to date. Maybe there’s a more efficient way to do it now.”
Herrman also started working for the township after operations were consolidated into the old Global Building and said that was also a big help in efficiency of the department. “It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “If there’s an issue, if we need to have a quick meeting with somebody we’re all in the same room.” Whether it is the Fire Bureau, the Department of Public Works or the administration on the other side of the building nobody is more than a short walk away.
“It’s much better having everybody under one roof, just for the communication issue, just for the working together issue,” he added. “People tend to sectionalize themselves within their own groups. Now that we’re moving forward with Howell it’s improved a lot now that we’re all working together.”