Each year, Centralina Regional Council presents the Region of Excellence Award for Local Government Innovation to recipients who utilize strategic and creative thinking to solve critical problems in their community in new, cutting-edge ways. The 2022 recipients, Gaston County and the City of Gastonia, were honored for their partnership in building inspection services, which delivered measurable value and impact at the local government level. Their collaboration is a positive example of the success that comes from cities and counties coming together to work towards a common goal and implementing an effective solution to address a challenge in their community through efficient service delivery.
The City of Gastonia has grown and developed over the years, with a 12 percent population increase from the 2010 to 2020 census collections. Nearly 1,800 apartment units have been approved in the last two years, as well as 2,050 single-family units. The addition of new residents and expansion of existing businesses attracts new jobs and investment to the community, which in turn, benefits the city’s tax base. With this continuous growth comes the need for building inspections to be done quickly and efficiently to meet high demand. The statewide challenges of recruitment and retention of building inspectors, along with the continued trajectory of growth for the city, encouraged local government stakeholders to look at different methods for the provision of building inspection services.
The state of North Carolina allows certain opportunities for municipalities and counties to work together to deliver services to residents. As Gastonia conducted extensive research on how larger cities performed building inspections, they discovered that many municipalities of various sizes around our state partnered with their respective county governments to assist with these services. Gastonia previously partnered with Gaston County for tax collection services and economic development projects, so the opportunity to work together again was an easy and viable option. The leveraging of both city and county staff resources to provide delivery of these services was determined by the stakeholders to be the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Though this partnership started similarly to those the city researched, both governments wanted to dive deeper into how resources, such as computer technology, staffing and vehicles, could be used to provide quality and timely services. Though initially challenging, the city and county worked together to use computer software for permitting purposes and reassign Gastonia building inspection staff to the Gaston County department. Vehicles were also allocated from the city to the county level to ensure the community would receive their inspections quickly and efficiently. In the summer of 2022, the City of Gastonia came to an interlocal agreement with Gaston County to leverage and utilize 20 employees from the county inspections department to help carry out this state-mandated service in the community. The county began performing building inspections in the city in August of 2022.
The model the City of Gastonia and Gaston County created is one that can be replicated in other statewide local governments, many of which also struggle with the recruitment of building inspectors. The continued partnership makes it easier for builders, single-trade contractors and citizens alike to adhere to a single set of rules for applications, permitting procedures and scheduling processes throughout the county. That demonstration of efficiency helps to bolster the community’s reputation, with the hope that it will continue to bring in new and exciting businesses to the area.
Click here to learn more about the annual Region of Excellence Awards and learn more about all of our 2022 winners.