City and county to begin split of joint building department | AspenTimes.com

City and county to begin split of joint building department

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The dismantling of a decade-long relationship between the city of Aspen and Pitkin County commences Monday with the split of their joint building department.

The city and county have long run separate planning and zoning departments. Now, except for the shared space, they will separate building departments and administrative functions.

Steven Kanipe, the joint department’s longtime chief building inspector, will become the city’s new chief building official. Tony Fusaro, a six-year veteran with the building department, which issues permits and oversees construction, will take the helm on the county side.

The split is the first of three phases that will result in two independent building and development departments. Phase two consists of remodeling the space that the departments currently share. The work is scheduled to begin this summer.

After the remodel, the split will be completed when the newly separated departments rework their permitting process, according to a press release from the city of Aspen.

Kanipe reckons the split will improve efficiency and customer service.

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“The building department was managed by two jurisdictions with disparate needs and priorities, and a great deal of my time was spent trying to coordinate two very different systems,” he said. “I think the separation will create more time for the chief building officials to collaborate with staff and better manage the large workload.”

The split came after a yearlong analysis of the joint Community Development Department by its employees and customers – developers, contractors and architects. According to the city press release, the analysis revealed a “complicated bureaucratic system that took time and attention away from processing permits and serving the client effectively.”

Cindy Houben, Pitkin County’s director of community development, said the decision to keep the separate departments in the same space on the third floor in City Hall is a gesture to the customers.

“We learned that they definitely wanted both departments in close proximity for ease of doing their business,” Houben said.

The remodel is intended to create separate spaces for each department within the same, larger area.

The final phase will involve moving some of the experienced permitting staff to the front desk so customers can complete their business over the counter, instead of in the back offices, the press release said.

The separate departments will still share a limited number of staff members, including an electrical inspector and seasonal electrical staff. They will also share regular staff to cover vacations and other short-term needs, according to the press release.

For more information or to provide feedback, Houben can be reached at 920-5097 and Aspen Community Development Director Julie Ann Woods can be reached at 920-5100.