Clermont County’s chief building official Ray Sebastian was recently honored with the Victor C. Jones Award, presented by the Ohio Building Officials Association for innovation in the field of code enforcement.
The award, given by the state to one person each year, is the first given to someone in Clermont County and is chiefly due to Sebastian’s efforts to help ease the burden on residents seeking to get permits, such as for a new home.
“When I started, I was hired as a chief mechanical inspector,” said Sebastian. “I worked with things involving heating, air conditioning or ventilation or fire protection. Commercial growth was beginning in the county and I was pretty up to date with what was going on there. When I started here, I began to feel the pain from the different departments. The counter I worked from, if someone was building a house, they had to deal with three different clerks, fill out three different forms – basically your phone, address and name three different times. What a slug of bureaucracy. This concept evolved from there.”
"Everybody works toward this end," said Sebastian. "There is a good program in Hillsboro County, Fla., that I spent some time looking at to see how they do it. Their program is a little different, they are spread out a lot, so it depends on satellite offices, which wasn't well received in Clermont County. I also have a friend in Fairfax County, Virginia, whose project is much bigger than what we are, so it's still pretty cumbersome, but we used some of their concepts."
The permit central philosophy combines the lion's share of permit requests onto one form, at one location, at one time. This can be an extremely streamlined way of completing the process, said Sebastian, as it involves departments such as water and sewage, the engineer's office, plus building and electricity permitting. The original effort was aided through a state grant.
"A few years ago we were chosen by the state to be a pilot jurisdiction for a customer service project called 'FAST,'" said Sebastian. "We were working towards that end anyway, so the grant really helped us. It allowed us to put everyone under one roof and get the permit central concept going. You can come in here and get your building, electric, mechanical, fire, water management, sewer and driveway permit, at the same counter, on one form, which is kind of unique."