The leader of the state Department of Safety and Professional Services on Wednesday said the department has made progress in addressing delays when regulating commercial building construction.
The regulatory changes resulted in as much as 70% faster turnaround times in some areas and come in response to criticism last year from lawmakers and industry groups over the length of time it took the department to schedule and review construction plans, according to a report from DSPS.
“As a result we are able to review plans more quickly, but more importantly we have really looked at the safety aspect so we’re not just doing things fast, but doing things right,” DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim said.
One of DSPS’ responsibilities is to review commercial construction plans to ensure they comply with Wisconsin laws and regulations. Contractors pay a fee to the department for such plans to be reviewed.
DSPS received more than 6,700 plan submissions in the first six months of 2020 — an increase from the more than 6,200 plans received in the first half of 2019.
Crim said changes implemented in January include realigning staff for more efficiency and creating checklist tools so people better understand what information is needed in order to submit complete plans. Plans also shifted to electronic submissions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A DSPS review released Wednesday found significant improvements in processing plans. The process time for plumbing plan reviews dropped by 73% this year, while the process time for commercial plan reviews dropped 40%.
“A lot of it stems from having complete plans in a timely manner so we can begin the work and turn around the view,” Crim said.
Several GOP lawmakers in November sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers and Crim saying they were “very concerned” about the time it takes for the department to review commercial construction plans to ensure compliance with Wisconsin laws and regulations.
DSPS data show delays began under former Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure, with department officials pointing to staff reductions as one factor behind longer processing times.
“Dawn has done exactly what we needed her to do — she took a process that had been broken for years, and she fixed it,” Evers said in a statement. “Her leadership has resulted in better use and development of staff resources, clearer and more consistent expectations, greater equity among customers, and faster service — all without compromising quality or safety.”
The internal process redesign is the first of three phases being implemented at DSPS. Crim said a modernization effort already is underway and DSPS also plans to seek legislation from state lawmakers to provide greater flexibility in department duties.
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