In an effort to expedite the city of Stephenville’s building inspection process more efficiently and better utilize city staff in the field, city councilors approved a contract to acquire a firm to handle plan review services for new development.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a contract with Bureau Veritas North America, Inc. (BVNA) which will provide the plan review services based on a fee schedule according to the development’s value.

The firm will handle all multi-family and commercial development, as well as review construction drawings for compliance with the city’s fire code.

City councilors discussed the contract at their May 6 meeting but were informed by City Attorney Randy Thomas that minor wording changes in the contract would be needed before receiving approval. At that time the council chose to table the item until their meeting this week, that received an OK after the changes were made.

According to Betty Chew, director of community development for the city, it is the department’s goal to maintain same-day inspections.

“That’s very unique for a city our size,” said Chew of the quick turnaround on inspections. “We’re fortunate that we’re experiencing growth in our city, and to better serve the developers and builders we’ve decided to contract out plan review services to a professional agency.”

Typically, site plan reviews for commercial development will take a week to 10 days for BVNA to complete, said Chew. “All site plans and construction drawings that are submitted will still be reviewed for local compliance.”

Chew says the third-party plan review service, which was selected after city staff reviewed several firms over the last two years, “will expedite the process and not delay construction.”

Plan review services will accomplish two goals, said Chew. “One, it will allow city staff to to same-day construction inspections, and two, it keeps our inspectors in the field.”

In the world of developers and builders, Chew says “time is money to them,” and by expediting the process with the help of professionals, BVNA will allow developers to start on their projects in a timely manner, as well as keep the project going while they are inspected by city staff.

Chew says city staff will continue to review site plans in-house to make sure they meet the city’s zoning ordinance requirements, and conduct drainage-stormwater studies for each development.