Soon, City Manager Bob Bartolotta will be a lot more accessible to the public.
At an informal meeting of the Sarasota City Commission Tuesday, commissioners agreed with a concept Vice Mayor Terry Turner proposed — to create weekly office hours for Bartolotta.
The decision was made after Turner explained that a recent meeting with members of the Gulf Coast Business Exchange left him with the impression that changes need to be made to the city’s building department and its permitting process.
“I was told we have a circular approval process, an ambiguous chain of command and a mañana attitude,” Turner said.
“Whether that’s true or not, that’s the attitude and the perception that’s out there.”
Turner said he was told the city’s permit approval process is worse than both the Manatee County and Sarasota County building departments.
“I don’t think that’s what we want to hear,” Turner said. “Anyone who’s frustrated should have the city manager’s ear for a fixed time every week.”
Turner also suggested commissioners attend the office-hour sessions, but only to observe and not to comment.
“The value of us attending is informing ourselves on potential policy changes and identifying things coming up as a potential concern,” Turner said. “This isn’t about approving bad projects. It’s about approving good projects and saying no to bad projects more quickly.”
Turner said he thinks city staff and, especially, its building department staff have come a long way in the past two years in being more accessible and having a can-do attitude.
“I believe staff is doing a lot better,” Turner said. “But there’s still a perception problem we have to deal with.”
Commissioner Shannon Snyder agreed, explaining that the permitting process will be more efficient when it gets rid of its paper permitting process and implements an electronic system that surrounding counties are using.
“The building department is operating at 1975 levels,” said Snyder, who hopes the city can switch to an electronic system in the next two years.
Bartolotta had no problem with the office-hours concept and plans to implement the process soon.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].