Sarpy County is often recognized as Nebraska’s fastest-growing county in the state. The Sarpy County Planning and Building Department and its team of building inspectors play a particularly important role in ensuring Sarpy’s growth continues.
In August, the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners and Springfield City Council approved agreements that expanded a longtime arrangement between the two jurisdictions regarding building inspections. Both votes were unanimous.
Under the new agreement, county building inspectors will perform building and electrical inspections for residential and commercial projects in Springfield. Previous agreements with the county did not include electrical inspections.
“This is the kind of partnership we’re really proud of,” said County Board Member Jim Warren, whose district includes Springfield. “Springfield saves money and gets high-quality inspections, while the county gets to share its expertise and is compensated for it. Access to certified, professional building inspectors is vital to keeping projects on track.”
Team Sarpy ‘wants everyone to do well’
The county has assisted Springfield with building inspections, including plumbing and mechanical, since 2001. For decades, Springfield used a local electrician for electrical inspections.
However, as Springfield continues to grow and attract new businesses and homes, the need for a more robust inspection system has grown, too. Some commercial projects can require daily inspections and site visits.
Springfield’s zoning area includes the more than just the city itself; it spans from roughly Capehart Road to Buffalo Road and 156th Street to 120th Street.
Sarpy County Building Official Cody Sayers said officials from the county and City of Springfield sat down together to come up with the agreement recently approved.
In exchange for performing reviews and inspections within Springfield’s zoning jurisdiction, the county will receive a portion of the building permit fees. The agreement will be in effect through the end of 2022.
“We’re happy to assist with inspections and make sure the community does not lose out on a project because they felt we didn’t have the infrastructure to back it up,” Sayers said. “We modeled our approach after the Wastewater Agency, where the county and cities all came together. I feel that everybody at team Sarpy wants everyone in our area to do well.”
Springfield City Administrator Kathleen Gottsch said the arrangement ensures projects are built safely and according to building code, and that plan reviews and inspections are provided in a timely manner. Timing is key when it comes to building schedules and deadlines, she said.
Gottsch said the agreement helps Springfield financially, too, because the city does not have the staff nor resources to create its own building inspection department at this time.
“We have had an excellent relationship with the county and look forward to continuing our partnership with them to provide high-quality services to the residents of Springfield,” she said.
Helping grow Sarpy County
The county’s two building inspectors stay busy. Last year alone, they performed 7,305 inspections within the county’s zoning jurisdiction and 812 within the City of Gretna’s jurisdiction.
COVID-19 hasn’t slowed their work either, as both commercial and residential construction have remained steady in Sarpy County.
The purpose of a building inspection is to ensure a structure is safe and built to code. Inspections involve looking at the building’s footings, framing, plumbing, mechanical and electrical elements.
Inspections are required for a builder to obtain a certificate of occupancy.
Having a professional and seamless Planning and Building Department is critical in facilitating new development, which is important because it helps grow the tax base.
Earlier this summer, the Planning and Building Department launched an online portal where residents and builders can apply for building permits. The new online system allows users to track the status of an application, schedule an inspection, submit documents and make payments.
“This department is always striving to work better for the public, whether it’s making our permitting system more user friendly or pitching in to help another jurisdiction,” said Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly. “We’ve got a great team in Planning and Building, and we’re thankful for that, because they do a lot of the heavy lifting to make projects come to fruition in Sarpy County.”