Noah Cullis, director of Planning and Building Services, for the city of Stephenville will hit his one-year anniversary in the position in December and says a lot of ground has been covered in that time, with more positive changes in the works.

“We’ve worked very hard at making what we do here as transparent as possible for developers, contractors and individual citizens. People need to know as much as possible about what to expect from our side of things when they take on a project and we try to stay focused on that,” he said.

Cullis says that in addition, they’re working on making the tasks of the department’s staff as smooth as possible.

“Our people are getting new tablets to use in the field so they can input information from on-site directly into our data base. This allows our staff to adapt on the spot whether it’s code compliance, inspection or whatever it is," Cullis said. "For instance, maybe a contractor has completed some extra work and we can go ahead and do an inspection we hadn’t planned on when we went out. We can just get that out of the way and put the information into our data base and it’s done.

“It will cut down on our paper work and travel time, as well as the time of the builder, so everybody is better off. That’s the kind of change we’re looking to implement in the department - finding ways to make things easier and smoother for everyone involved.” 

Another example of positive change the department will soon be implementing is a new web-based software system that will give contractors real-time status on in-progress projects.

“People will be able to log on and check directly online and see exactly what tasks have been completed and what’s left to be done. Like the tablets for use in the field, it will simplify things for everybody and we’re anxious to get that up and running,” Cullis said.

He adds that education - going both ways - is an important component of what they do in his department.

“We want the builders to educate us about their needs, and we want to be involved in educating them regarding what we’re doing and anything that’s taking place with the city such as changes in ordinances and so forth,” he said.

Clarity regarding annexation is also a big item in his department right now, and he outlines three main objectives they’re working on:

• The Annexation Policy, which provides the guidance and rationale for the consideration of areas within the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction for annexation

• The Annexation Program, which describes the process for identifying areas for potential annexation and results in program documentation that illustrates and describes these areas

• The Annexation Plan, a document required by state statute, which must be adopted before certain types of annexation may be pursued by the city.

Cullis emphasizes that Planning and Building Services has a one-hundred percent open door policy.

“If someone needs to speak with anyone in this department - including me - they just need to drop by or call and we’ll help them in any way we can. There are always options in any project, and we are here to help identify them and make things a smooth and fluid as possible.”