PORT ORCHARD — Activity inside the City of Port Orchard’s new annex building at 720 Prospect St. mirrors any location that’s in a state of move-in flux. File boxes are stacked on conference tables, industrial shelving sits empty awaiting rows of files and freshly painted walls lack only artwork to give them an added dash of color.
But despite the clutter, the city’s 10-person Department of Community Development seems to be settling in at the former law office just around the corner from its old location at City Hall. The department had outgrown its space there, where many of the staffers were co-located in cubicle space barely allowing them elbow room.
Staff members took possession of the building on July 3 after it had been remodeled to include an Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated bathroom. They tidied it up and got network cabling installed, then started moving boxes on July 10.
Once the move is complete, the remodeled building will house three planners who previously had to share cubical space. There also are offices for the building inspector, code enforcement officer, and space for the department’s plotter printer. A large conference room also is a welcome addition to the department. Also part of the new layout is a small kitchen for staff and an electronics network closet.
Director Nick Bond said the new space is quiet and offers fewer distractions, “but I’ve had to learn a whole bunch of new extension numbers” to reach employees at City Hall, he said.
“Before, all I had to do was yell out from my chair to Mark Dorsey (the city’s Public Works director),” Bond said with a smile. “So Mark and I are going to have to meet regularly and communicate more.”
In addition to gaining more space, the off-site building will allow city residents and developers to visit a one-stop location — “The Permit Center” — where they can obtain project applications and coordinate new developments. A reorganization early this year made it possible for permitting to be done across a single counter in the Community Development department.
The center will be staffed by a public works clerk, a planning clerk and a building clerk, Bond said. Each clerk will be responsible for permitting in those areas. He expects the new arrangement will result in increased efficiencies, although he said it’s been slow in unfolding as new elements are added. A new public works clerk was hired in mid-spring, he noted.
The building, which also was a private residence in its early years, was purchased by the city in September 2016 for $230,000. The City Council also approved an allocation of $70,000 to furnish the building. At the time negotiations to buy the building took place, its appraised value was $275,000.
Although City Hall initially had been designed to include an additional wing where the police department’s parking area now sits, Bond said it was cut from the original plan because of affordability issues at the time. And while Community Development’s additional space needs were anticipated in 1999 when City Hall was built, he said that “We determined that buying this building would get us years down the road without having to make the significant investment to expand City Hall.”
In a few weeks, Port Orchard residents will get a chance to see the new annex space. City government officials will host an open house from 4:15-6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8, allowing citizens to get a look at the new permit center and view the rest of the building’s space, Bond said.