The following is an article in Omblogsman, a blog series by Jim Rawlinson, Regulatory and Permitting Ombudsman at Develop Indy, a business unit of the Indy Chamber.
Hello readers! Friendly neighborhood Ombudsman here.
To recap: I am Jim Rawlinson, the Regulatory and Permitting Ombudsman at the Indy Chamber. I’m on the Develop Indy team, contracted with the City of Indianapolis to help businesses and individuals interact with the City administration quickly and easily. I’m here to help connect you to resources you need at the city, advise on anything permitting, zoning, etc. related, and help un-stick your sticky situations. For this edition of Omblogsman, I thought we might want to sit down with Director Jason Larrison at the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.
A quick bio rundown on Jason. He’s a graduate of Ball State University (chirp chirp), and an architect by trade. He has spent the majority of his professional career as a public servant, working both under the previous City administration in the Department of Code Enforcement and working at the State as an architect. While at the State he notably oversaw the reconstruction of Soldiers and Sailors Monument. He was listed this year as one of the IBJ’s “Top 40 Under 40”.
There have been some major changes behind the scenes under Director Larrison’s leadership. Most notably, what was the Department of Code Enforcement has been restructured into the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services (I’m contractually obligated to remind everyone who says “DCE” that it is “BNS”). The idea was to take the edge off of “enforcement” and focus on “service”. It is more than just semantics though, the department has been fundamentally restructured: Construction services encompasses inspections and permitting under one umbrella to offer increased service, Public safety has its own inspections focused on nuisance abatement and high weeds & grass to focus on blight elimination.
Another major change to the department under Director Larrison’s watch has been moving what was “Animal Control” under the BNS umbrella and renaming it “Animal Care Services”. Much like the changes at Code Enforcement, Jason’s hope is to change the focus from “enforcement” and “control” to “service”. Jason has found ways to maintain the service levels to citizens while finding new funding opportunities to add staff at the facility.
Although there has been considerable realignment and change at the department, Director Larrison isn’t finished. Looking to 2018, he is exploring the possibility of modifying the fee structure to offer increased service and responsiveness. Along with that would be increased opportunities for online permitting (while you can’t apply from it currently, Open Counter Indy is here to help business owners answer their zoning and permitting questions 24/7). The City of Indianapolis is currently rolling out Shift Indy, a complete redo of the City’s online presence, which will be an exciting update for the City as a whole.
A major focus going forward will be Mayor Hogsett’s “2,000 homes initiative”, a goal of changing the status of 2,000 abandoned or vacant homes in Marion County over the next year, helping neighborhoods eliminate blight and returning the properties to the tax rolls. We are also awaiting a new report from the Office of Audit & Performance on a new coordinated multi-agency effort to address high weeds & grass. Animal Care Services is completing a facility assessment at their current location, trying to increase and maximize space, and exploring possible locations for a new facility. They also are doing all they can to increase their live release rate to 90%, at which point they would be officially considered a “no kill shelter”!
These are some important ways that the City of Indianapolis has focused its attention on providing service to the community. As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.