Steamboat Springs The looming departure of the city of Steamboat Springs from the Routt County Regional Building Department was the topic of a tense special meeting of the department's users' board on Wednesday.
Although there were indications initially that the city might try to repair its arrangement with the Building Department before striking out on its own, City Manager Alan Lanning told the board Wednesday it is a "foregone conclusion that this marriage is over with."
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.
Mark Halvorson, a Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association representative on the users' board, said he was "taken aback by the animosity between the two groups." He also said he appreciated the city's honesty in its response.
"In that honesty you show how deeply you feel and how deeply upset you are," Halvorson said. "What's written here is very disturbing."
City officials said they believe 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
County Manager Tom Sullivan and Building Department Director Carl Dunham said they take exception to some of the city's claims, but did not get into specifics Wednesday.
In July, the Steamboat Springs City Council sent a letter to the Routt County Board of Commissioners informing them that the city wished to end its intergovernmental agreement with the Building Department. The agreement requires 12 months notice of cancellation, so it could remain in place until July 2008. The city has indicated it will hire a contractor to provide its building services, rather than staffing a department itself.
Due to the tense nature of the discussion, Dunham asked users' board member Tom Fox to preside over Wednesday's meeting. Fox started the meeting by asking that people only make comments directed at the city or county, not specific individuals.
During public comment, various members of the construction community spoke in defense of the Building Department and asked the city to reconsider its decision.
"Right now, we have a very good relationship with the Building Department," said John Shively of Shively Construction.
Shively said he is concerned about extra costs - city officials have said their fees will likely be higher - and having to be versed in additional building codes and interpretations.
Steamboat construction constitutes the majority of the Building Department's work. The city's departure would mean massive budget and personnel cuts, county officials said. 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 currently has about 15 people on staff.
In June, the town of Hayden gave the county similar notice that they were canceling their intergovernmental agreement with the Routt County Building Department. The town recently announced it has signed a contract with SAFEbuilt to provide its building department services.