(Originally published in the December 2006 Housing Journal)

CID Promises Improvements to Customer Service, Inspections Statewide

Due to growing dissatisfaction with the timeliness of inspections and overall customer service from the Construction Industries Division (CID), earlier this year NMHBA (most notably lobbyist Randy Traynor) worked with legislators to increase CID’s budget by $1.25 million. We recently asked CID Director Lisa Martinez to write an article for our membership stating what her department is accomplishing as a result of that extra funding.

As we are about to begin a new year and a new legislative session, it is important to recognize this last year’s work and the goals set by the Construction Industries Division to improve our services to one of the largest industries in New Mexico. The goals we set were ambitious, but through the support of the Governor’s office, the Legislature and industry members such as the New Mexico Home Builders Association, CID has been able to meet many of the goals established nearly one year ago.

In conjunction with our partners at NMHBA, the CID has established a sound business plan that will lay the groundwork for significant changes in CID’s operations. The business plan supports the basic concepts of improved customer service, improved communications and access to management and inspection staff, and improved timeliness of inspections. The plan serves to manage CID operations as a well-run business, serving our industry in the most effective way possible. In brief, the plan proposes:

  • Perform More Timely Inspections/Increase Inspections Staff. CID committed during the last legislative session to add inspection staff to keep up with construction growth across the state. To date, 14 inspectors have been hired in four trades – general construction, electrical, mechanical/plumbing, LP Gas – and are working throughout New Mexico. Additionally, the Division expects to fill all remaining vacancies prior to January 2007.
  • Establishment of the KIVA Support Center. Through the creation of a customer service center for KIVA (CID’s electronic permitting and inspection tracking system), service representatives will accept and track all inspection requests through a 1-800 inspection request line. Customers will be able to reach a “live person” from 6:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m., five days a week. By eliminating the administrative time inspectors currently spend retrieving inspection requests, CID expects to increase inspector’s field time by 5000 hours per year. CID’s goal is to complete 90% of inspections within 48 hours of receipt of request. Additionally, CID has set a goal of completing 40% of inspections within 24 hours of receipt of request.
  • Perform Inspections with Greater Consistency in Code Interpretations. CID recognizes the importance of stating the Division’s official position and providing direction to plan review and inspection staff and to code users regarding the consistent application of code interpretations. It is our goal to ensure that CID’s Bureau Chiefs and inspectors are available on a more regular basis to provide important code determinations. Again, the KIVA support center is intended to eliminate much of the administrative work currently assumed by the Bureau Chiefs and inspectors, creating more time to officially resolve questions of code intent.
  • Increase Customer Satisfaction and Provide More Effective Communication between Inspectors/Contractors/Owners. In the past, due to a lack of financial resources, inspectors have been restricted from using their cell phones in the field. New state provider terms reflect that a larger pool of minutes is currently available. Therefore, inspectors’ cell phone numbers are now being made available to contractors so they can communicate in the field to coordinate changes with inspections requests and address code issues.
  • Increase Competency and Retention Levels of Inspection Staff. Statewide, CID and local government jurisdictions struggle to recruit and retain qualified inspection staff due to low salaries. CID successfully worked with the State Personnel Office this last year to increase the salary for entry-level inspectors and to provide salary increases for inspectors performing additional job duties and working as multi-certified inspectors. The Construction Industries Commission has adopted a policy to encourage the multiple inspector certifications for residential construction statewide. Through a new pilot program, inspectors can be trained to become certified in more than one trade, so that efficiencies in the inspection process can be realized.
  • Increase Investigation and Prosecution of Unlicensed Activity Statewide. Creating a level playing field for all contractors is a critical part of CID’s work. The Division has been quite successful in the last few years prosecuting unlicensed activity, increasing the number of cases investigated from 30 in 1992 to over 400 in 2006.

The Construction Industries Division will continue to maintain a business plan for the purpose of forecasting construction activity and addressing the changing needs of the industry. Over the years CID has been able to achieve remarkable results with minimal resources. However, in order for the Division to provide maximum responsiveness to growth trends across the state and better fulfill its statutorily mandated purpose, establishing and maintaining a workforce and programs that are flexible and accommodating to a changing economy will be of key importance.

We thank the New Mexico Homebuilders Association for their support in our endeavors. This interaction with our stakeholders affords the Division the opportunity to educate the industry about our operational issues and has revealed many important industry concerns and perceptions about CID services. This serves to help us improve and provide a better service to our industry. Again, we thank you for your continued support!