Ted Allen looks over a series of plans for the One Steamboat Place development at his office in the Routt County Regional Building Department in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo by Brian Ray

Ted Allen looks over a series of plans for the One Steamboat Place development at his office in the Routt County Regional Building Department in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday afternoon.

Building issue incites passion

City's decision to break ties with department discussed at meeting


— Time has done little to cool the passions surrounding the city of Steamboat Springs' planned departure from the Routt County Regional Building Department.

A report from City Manager Alan Lanning explaining the decision to break away from the county was discussed at Tuesday's meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council, and the issue drew fervent commentary from the public, former City Council members and Lanning himself.

No official action was taken regarding the building department on Tuesday. The City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners will discuss the issue at a joint meeting Jan. 15.

In July, the City Council sent a letter to the Routt County Board of Commissioners informing them that the city wanted to end its intergovernmental agreement with the Regional Building Department. The agreement requires 12 months notice of cancellation, so it could remain in place until July 2008. The city has a proposal from outside contractor SAFEbuilt to provide its building department services, but a new City Council seated in November has begun to question that decision and ask if the city might repair its relationship with the county.

As they have since July, members of Steamboat's building community spoke in support of the county building department.

"It has been the unanimous opinion of every builder I've talked to that this is not a good idea," local builder John Fielding told City Council.

Following public comment, Lanning seized on the fact that no one spoke in opposition to the city's planned departure from the building department except those involved in the building industry.

"There is no public outcry that I'm aware of," Lanning said.

Lanning also dismissed suggestions that the city try to work out its problems with the county.

"We've been working at this for over 20 years," Lanning said. "We've been highlighting problems for 10 (years). How long does it take before you finally decide it's not going to work?"

Lanning ended his comments by questioning the intentions of local builder Mark Halvorson, who suggested during public comment that the city reconsider its decision so issues could be discussed publicly.

Lanning accused Halvorson of wanting a different result rather than a public process. Lanning said Halvorson publicly stated at a previous meeting of the building department's users' board that the group should try to slow down the process until after Election Day.

"If that's not intent, I don't know what is," Lanning said.

The atmosphere at Tuesday's meeting was similar to a tense special meeting of the users' board in September. At that meeting - and in response to questions the users' board submitted in August to clarify why the city was considering an end to its agreement with Routt County, the city provided a 30-page, strongly worded response that included correspondence from as far back as December 2002, detailing the rift between the two governments.

On Monday, Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said she believed that response was unprofessional, but she said she had no problems with Lanning's comments during Tuesday's meeting.

"It's OK to be blunt if you're constructive," Hermacinski said.

Hermacinski said she understands the frustration of city staff members, who have wanted to leave the county department for years, got a past City Council to agree to it and are now having that move questioned by a new City Council.

Former City Council members Susan Dellinger and Towny Anderson also spoke at Tuesday's meeting in support of the steps the city has taken to establish its own building department. Dellinger cited a move by the county earlier this year to move $1.4 million from the building department budget into Routt County's general fund. County officials said the move reimbursed the county for the many years the building department operated at a loss, but city officials saw the move as inappropriate because most of the building department's fees are generated from building permits issued within city limits.

City officials said they think they can provide a higher level of service than the county. Among other complaints, the city claims:

- County building officials are unwilling to enforce the city's Community Development Code

- Building fees do not accurately reflect city personnel costs, resulting in city taxpayers subsidizing costs related to the permit process

- Calculation errors often appear on building permits

- The actions of county building officials present legal liability concerns for the city

Steamboat construction constitutes the majority of the Routt County Regional Building Department's work. The city's departure would mean massive budget and personnel cuts, county officials have said. County Building Official Carl Dunham said in July that $707,416 in building fees were collected in Steamboat last year, compared with $592,301 for the rest of the county. Dunham said he has about 15 employees.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 5 months ago

again.......the only people who embrace change are babies who crapped their pants.........., and yes, wouldn't Mr. Shively be a joy to live with.


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago

The "community development code" is something to be handled by planning or zoning, not the building inspector.

Building inspection is there for the sole purpose of making the structure safe to occupy.

Asking the building inspectors to enforce the "community development code" is like calling a cop to watch your kids while you're gone to the store. It's not their job.


QuitYerWhining 9 years, 5 months ago

Lanning and company have an axe to grind because when they say jump they expect everyone to jump. They want the county building department to become the zoning enforcement Gestapos and then the county will not only absorb the additional costs for enforcement but also take all of the heat for enforcement decisions. There isn't a Regional Building Department (the key is regional meaning it encompasses not only rural county but 4 incorporated towns as well) in this country that enforces land use and development codes. Essentially the county would have to enforce 5 different land use codes if Lanning had his way. Solution? Write one land use code for the entire county then maybe there could be some discussion about the building department starting field enforcement. Get rid of 4 of the 5 planning commissions and develop one for the entire county. I can hear the whining now ":.but we have different needs and visions here in Steamboat then say Oak Creek." Then keep your planning department and commissions, start charging higher planning fees and hire a couple of zoning enforcement officers and police your own ordinances:. no matter how un-enforceable some of them may be. By the way I think anyone with half a brain can see that the rest of the list of City "grievances" is just lame and there is no need to even address these:.Lanning is just grasping at straws.


justathought 9 years, 5 months ago

Lanning seized on the fact that no one spoke in opposition to the city's planned departure from the building department except those involved in the building industry, DUH, these are the people dealing with the dept on a daily basis, WHO else should be complaining?

Hermacinski said she understands the frustration of city staff members, who have wanted to leave the county department for years, JUST who the hell is working for who?

This article sounds like Lanning has lost it, a child throwing a temper tantrum if he doesn't get his way. Is the springs trying to secede from the county, become it's own little island?


catsbuzzy 9 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Lanning's question as to why Hayden is not getting the same response from the County as the City is in regard to leaving the regional building department and its answer says everything on this subject. Hayden's approach was one of "what's right for Hayden", while Mr. Lanning's approach is personal, vindictive, and fails to look at the entire picture of what is/isn't right for the City. Perhaps the City Council should look carefully at whether Mr. Lanning is the right person in the City Manager position -- what else is ego and personality driving in his decisionmaking?


housepoor 9 years, 5 months ago

It looks like Mr Lanning and the new city councel have differing opinions on mant things. Isn't his job to run the city adminstrationstaff and not make policy? I didn't see him on the ballot.


id04sp 9 years, 5 months ago


I don't want to 'cuse nobody of nothin', however, in other parts of the country it is VERY common practice for building inspectors to take kickbacks from developers in return for letting a lot of stuff slide. Things like only putting three nails in a stud (two at the top, one at the bottom, so it won't twist if anybody tests it), skimping on headers, stair designs, and even stuff like letting builders put shingles on the roof with no tar paper or ice and water shield underneath. I've seen a lot of stuff just thrown up quickly by marginally skilled framing crews that would never pass in Steamboat. For example, a big crack in a wall between the kitchen and family room because the supporting wall in the basement was not extended that last three feet to support the floor joists under that non-load bearing wall.

Why would anybody do something as stupid as save one nail? Because in a whole house, that adds up to a lot of nails, and when you're putting up a whole development it adds up to significant money when you save 25% on nails for your air-powered nail guns.

Florida was notorious for this stuff, and parts of Georgia. Many of the houses destroyed in hurricanes were found to be lacking things as basic as sheathing under the masonite siding, meaning you mostly had a piece of cardboard, some insulation, and a sheet of gypsum drywall between you and the 100+ mph winds.

Skimping on dimensions, fasteners and and basic good building practices (like having rafters stack over the studs in load bearing walls, which is not strictly required, but you'd better do it around here) leads to shoddy looking homes in just a few years, and it's the homeowners who get stuck with the results.

Carl's people won't let you get away with stuff like that.

Knowing what I know about Routt County versus other building inspection authorities in other places, I'd say the only reason to replace the RCBD with a "private" inspection service (a contractor hired to do the job instead of a government employee) is to get away with shoddy building practices in order to save money. There's no other good reason. Somebody may have an opportunity to make some money out of this situation by getting kickbacks from developers looking to grease the skids, and I'd look very closely at the people pushing for it.

Taking kickbacks is a part of life in city and county governments in many parts of the country. The RCBD folks are clearly people who do their jobs ethically, for the good of the public, and get a lot of hate and discontent from people because of it. The fact that somebody wants to remove them from the process when there have been no scandals, building collapses, etc., says that they are doing their jobs, and we should keep them.


WZ4EVER 9 years, 5 months ago

As a person who has had a few things built over the years around here as a consumer (I'm not a builder) I can't imagine that anyone would think the RoCo Building Department is 1. incompetent or 2. taking ANY bribes. I think those guys do a great job (and take more than their fair share of grief) under tough conditions. I've had them correct my contractor a time or two, and in both instances, they were right and my guys were ultimately glad they were paying attention. I think this is a money and power grab left over from the past Council and Lanning hasn't figured out who is the boss now. Dust of the resume, Alan. Council - keep it the way its been. It's the right thing for the City.


nofear 9 years, 5 months ago

Kickbacks? id04, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The building department is a contractor to the city yet their paychecks and budget come from the county. The building fees charged are to cover the cost of administration, review, etc. of a building permit. They cannot charge for more than the services cost.

Yet, somehow last July, $1.4 million of yours and my building fees was appropriated by the County Commissioners at a meeting on a Thursday night when no public or media was in attendance. Where did it go? It did not go to a public vote, it was not done at a combined city/county hearing, no permission was requested from the rest of the members of the region the building department serves. It was transferred straight into the county general fund.

Doesn't this make you wonder? Is the building department more apt to support their client (the city) or their bosses (the county commissioners)? If the building fees charged can only cover the services rendered, how did they accumulate such an inflated amount of cash on hand? What percentages of the funds were generated by the towns and municipalities? Since the fees were paid from communities generating the building, how come they weren't reimbursed to Oak Creek, Hayden, and Steamboat Springs, where the infrastructure for those buildings is now supported by these citizens?

Kickbacks? You don't get many kickbacks bigger than that.

This community is being manipulated and distracted to ignore the real issues and focus on the minor ones. And we're falling for it.

Let's not get confused, let's get outraged!


mud 9 years, 5 months ago

Where are all the "keep the government out of the market" posts?


mud 9 years, 5 months ago

free market! economics101! Down with socialism! capitalism gives me an ogism!


birddog 9 years, 5 months ago

Either way the city will have to hire code enforcement people. An outside contractor will be up to speed on building code issues, but not the SS development code. The building department needs to focus on the building code issues; the city needs to focus on the development code issues. Put people in charge of the things that they do best. Don't ask the plumber to be an electrician.

Anyone who has dealt with city planning will tell you their game is all about power trips and ego trips. I hope the new council will have the wisdom to not fix something that isn't broken.


grannyrett 9 years, 5 months ago

Did I read that right?-The agreement they have requires 12 months cancellation so it would be in effect till July 2008? They haven't even cancelled it yet, and in 7 months it's done? Maybe I can't count right. Maybe, I'm a dimwitiguess, too.


snowysteamboat 9 years, 5 months ago

Birddog- Just the facts.

The City has and always has one or more individuals involved with the enforcement of the Community Development Code. (Code Enforcement Officers). There has never been a request that the County Building Officials enforce the Community Development Code. The City complaint arose out of inspectors "turning a blind eye" to a problem such as a building located clearly where it wasn't shown on the plans because "it wasn't their job". The City has not requested that the inspectors enforce that issue, but rather notify the Planning Department so that proper measures may be taken.

The case in point resulted in the construction of a house over a sewer main. The end result was much expense for the homeowner that could have been avoided had the inspector dropped a dime.

I have no opinion on if the City should disengage from the City Building Department.

As for your ego trip and power trip comments, they appear unsubstantiated from my experience with the department.


elphaba 9 years, 5 months ago

Can we just get on with removing all the things that that thug Ken Brenner put in place?


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