Jerome Township seeks to improve reputation of zoning department

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Jerome Township’s zoning department is looking to improve its customer service.
At trustee meeting earlier this week, Director of Departments/Fire Chief Douglas Stewart said he has been working with the township’s new zoning inspector, Eric Snowden, to make the zoning application process more user-friendly.
“Jerome Township needs to be known as a township that’s here to serve the public,” Stewart said.
Snowden said the application process can be confusing for residents and prospective businesses.
In order to clarify the proper steps to take, Snowden said he is working on creating a “development handbook,” for applicants to consult.
Once complete, it will guide applicants through the zoning process and lay out the tasks they need to accomplish.
Stewart said the goal is to attract people to build, grow and work in Jerome Township.
“The worst thing we can do is drive people away from our township,” he said.
Additionally, Snowden recommended the township purchase a software package that would alleviate record-keeping issues the zoning department has dealt with in the past.
He said the appropriate software would increase efficiency and accountability.
By having one digital platform, he said communication within the zoning department and with the public would be improved.
“The bottom line is, it’s about customer service,” Snowden said.
The zoning department has tested three software packages so far and is waiting on one additional quote, Snowden explained.
He said several of the options feature a “public-facing element” which would allow applicants to view the status of their zoning application and follow along as it moves through the process.
Some programs even offer automatic notifications to keep applicants in the loop.
“We don’t want things getting lost in the shuffle,” Snowden said. “This is the type of tool that can prevent that.”
Snowden said the township is specifically looking at a software package that Union County may be using in the near future, as well.
The county is about a year away from implementing the program, he said, but it would benefit the township to be in sync with it in the future.
However, Snowden described the software as “multi-jurisdictional,” meaning township officials could collaborate with those from the county or surrounding townships, even if they don’t use the same program.
“Even if they did not implement this software, it’s all web-based, so they could have a reviewer,” he said.
Snowden said he expects to receive the quote he’s waiting on within a week, but definitely before the Nov. 19 trustees meeting.
He said he hopes to have a recommendation as to which software package to purchase by December.
In other business:
– Snowden discussed potential options for reworking the township’s comprehensive plan, which is due for an update.
He said the Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission (LUC) provides the service, but would not be available to work on the township plan until 2022.
The township could also pursue independent contractors, but Snowden said similar municipalities have paid around $100,000 for comprehensive plan services.
Trustee Ron Rhodes said the township needs to find a reasonably priced way to update the plan.
“We haven’t been a rural township for the past 20 years,” he said. “Do we need an update? Yes, but we’ve got to make it cost-effective.”
Snowden recommended focusing on updating the land use plan section of the comprehensive plan and attempting to get a commitment from LUC that they’ll work on the complete comprehensive plan in 2022.
“The (comprehensive) plan from 10 years ago is not particularly bad, it just needs a little bit of an update because things change,” Snowden said.
– Trustees approved a resolution to hire up to two part-time plow drivers for the winter season, in order to rotate schedules between the two current, full-time drivers.
– Trustees approved a resolution to spend up to $12,000 to repair the township’s 2006 International plow truck, which has a leak in the air tank, a leak in the fuel tank and needs the exhaust replaced.
– Trustees approved a resolution to spend up to $30,000 for repairs to Jerome Township Hall.
Stewart explained the township budgeted $50,000 for building repairs, $4,500 of which have been spent on replacing the side door.
He said the building is still in need of new windows, which were initially installed in 1982, and a front door. Additionally, the hall needs a doorway to separate the public from office areas.
“We have people just coming and going as they please,” Stewart said. “We want to make sure we have restricted access.”



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