The Town of Payson's Community Development Department recently asked its customers, "How are we doing?"
In response to some complaints and suggestions they got, the department is going to make some changes.
The department plans to provide customer service training for each of its staff members and have a one-day training program in dealing with irate customers.
The building division has already implemented once-a-week staff meetings and now requires people who attend out-of-town workshops to share the information they got in the training program.
"Obviously, we can't make everyone happy," said Town Manager Rich Underkofler, "especially when we're dealing with scab contractors or owner-builders who have no concept of the requirements of the town's building codes.
"There's always room for improvement, however. Bob (Gould) has formulated some plans in order to raise the customer's satisfaction level to a higher percentage."
Some 400 people who looked to the town for a variety of permits and requests were recently asked if the town provided the service they needed in a courteous and timely manner.
Community Development Director Bob Gould released the results of that survey last week. Nearly 63 percent of those responding were homeowner or professional builders.
Thirty-seven percent of the people answering the survey received services from the zoning division of the department.
The department received mostly good and excellent ratings in its treatment of customers seeking building inspections. Some 80 percent of those responding said town staff was courteous and knowledgeable and service was provided in a timely way.
The numbers went down about 10 percent for customers who sought plan reviews. More than 70 percent of those responding said service had been good or excellent. One person commented that plan review is "much too difficult a process."
Underkofler said, "Sometimes our regulatory roles conflict with the customer service roles, but our goal is to assure compliance with our building codes with the minimum of cost and time. The timeliness of the service is dependent on the quality of the initial submission for plan review."
One respondent said he was having trouble getting inspections and was denied special inspection during normal business hours. At least one person suggested that the department hire more inspectors.
Zoning and subdivision services were in the 90 percent satisfaction range.
The 400 people who answered the survey also got a chance to comment on the service they had received. The comments were wide-ranged and dealt with a number of issues -- from personality and attitude problems they encountered to "everyone in the office is helpful."
The respondents offered a number of suggestions on what the department could do to improve its ability to provide services.
The suggestions included having a checklist for new customers with all the items they need to complete a job. Several respondents were looking forward to the department's move to a new, larger and better-equipped building. The surveys had gone out before the department moved to its new building on the northwest corner of the Town Hall complex.
One customer was looking forward to more counter space that the new building now provides. And, of course, the respondents wanted lower costs for getting their permits and plans reviewed.
One person said, "Our houses are ready for inspection. We build them to code and plans. We treat inspectors with respect. We pass our inspections because we build a good house. We do not need the Town Council or the Town Manager to help us pass."
Another comment that sought change suggested the department clean up empty lots and get rid of junk. The respondent said, "Enforce junk rules like you enforce new construction compliance. You are very strict in new constructions and yet lax in out-of-code homes, mobile homes, etc."
Marcy Rogers, planning specialist with the Community Development Department, said she currently has 75 to 100 cases on a list for compliance with the town.
"I do ongoing code compliance," she said. "We go on a health and safety basis -- cars on blocks, any refrigerators in a yard, weeds. Open, abandoned buildings are a problem right now. Anything to do with health, safety or welfare issues top the list."
Rogers said she takes anonymous complaints and gives people civil citations when they fail to comply with the town's unified development code. The fines range from $50 to $1,000 a day.
She also schedules community clean-up days and has a group of children and adults who volunteer on a regular basis.
Another comment included the experience of a friend who had been put off by the department. The respondent said, "We have a personal friend who built one home in Payson and said that he would never work with the Town of Payson again. You add unnecessary inconvenience and cost to the already high construction prices.
"You should be doing an in-depth survey with your local contractors relative to your fairness in standards and procedures. Bitterness and anger seem to be the key words when discussing working with the Town of Payson."