Milwaukee DNS modifies operations, allowing construction to continue during COVID-19 outbreak

Changes include virtual inspections, limited operations

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Last updated on March 26th, 2020 at 12:39 pm

The Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services has announced it will modify its operations and building-inspection protocols in order to allow construction activity to continue safely in the city during the COVID-19 outbreak.

DNS officials announced earlier this week that department offices, including the permit and development center, would be closed until further notice. The closures were due to stay-at-home orders issues this week by city and state officials in an effort to slow the disease’s spread.

But real estate and development leaders said the closure would prevent construction activity to occur in the city, since DNS is responsible for reviewing plans, issuing building permits and inspecting job sites. Construction was one of the business types deemed essential by government officials, and therefore exempt from the “safer-at-home” orders.

Under the revised operations, the permit and development center would re-open in a limited capacity. While not open to the public, the office will have a drop-off location for plans, and staff will conduct reviews and issue permits.

Some inspections will also be conducted using photos and live video as an alternative to inspectors being on-site. And on-site inspections will follow new requirements that significantly restrict person-to-person contact in order to comply with recommended safety guidelines.

The changes were announced by DNS Commissioner Erica Lewandowski, following consultations with industry officials and city department heads such as Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.

“Our highest priority is safety. That means full compliance with building codes and complete adherence to public health recommendations by our teams as well as our customers,” Lewandowski said. “We are in a challenging time, and, like everyone, we are adapting the way we do business.”

DNS offices will remain closed to walk-in traffic.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.