The city inspections office had a busy year in 2017, with hundreds more building permits issued than in previous years.
Beatrice Chief Building Inspector Rob Mierau said in an email that the department processed more than 865 building permits, which are required for buildings, plumbing, mechanics, signs, encroachments and demolitions.
That compares to 550 permits issued in 2016 and 524 in 2015, a difference of more than 300 for 2017.
Mierau wrote there are a variety of factors that led to the increase, including better enforcement of city codes to ensure the proper permits are being obtained. He added more people are investing in the community, as demonstrated by the number of permit applications.
Mayor Stan Wirth said the increase in permits is an economic highlight for the area, and added that the recent housing study, which identified the need for more housing in Beatrice, may be one factor.
“The housing study that was completed was extremely beneficial to our area, just from the standpoint of we’re seeing a lot of progress being made in the number of housing permits that were pulled this year versus the last couple of years,” he said. “It was up substantially. There are planned developments going into next year that are also going to be really beneficial to our area.”
The department moved from a part-time to a full-time Code Compliance Officer (CCO last May, and in 2016, the department implemented a new electronic permitting system that allows workers to be more efficient, keep better records and easily access those records.
There’s also an electronic system for managing code violation cases, which is another module in the same software as the permitting system.
The system allows the department to create form letters, envelopes, and manage code violation cases.
The department was expected to surpass 1,100 cases by the end of the year.
City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said new housing developments prompted the additional permits, and that the city has an ultimate goal of making the process even more user friendly in the future.
“It’s getting better, but where we want to end up is where contractors or homeowners can apply online, have it approved online and no longer need to come down to submit plans and those things,” he said. “We’ve made steps in the right direction, but still have work to do.”
The Building Inspections Department also administers zoning ordinances, which also saw an increase in 2017.
Mierau wrote the department had approximately 60 zoning-related applications filed in 2017, nearly double the amount from his first two years in the position.