Our View: Compromise could be a remarkable feat

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs should be commended for their compromise intergovernmental agreement that will allow the Routt County Regional Building Department to retain oversight of building projects within city limits.

A resolution didn't seem possible a year ago, when a previous council voted to terminate its longstanding IGA with the county building department, which is responsible for permitting and inspecting all projects in the city and county. Among the city's chief complaints: the county building department was unable and unwilling to provide the scope of work desired by the city; county building officials were unwilling to enforce the city's Community Development Code; building fees don't accurately reflect city personnel costs; liability concerns; and paperwork errors.

Money also played a role. While a majority of the building department's revenues come from projects within city limits, none of those revenues come back to the city to pay for its share of staff time related to construction oversight and planning. The controversial transfer last year of $1.4 million from the building department's budget to the county's general fund further angered some city officials. The county said it simply was paying itself back for many years of subsidizing the building department.

Although it was obvious from the outset that the newly seated City Council wanted to reverse the course of its predecessor, it was less obvious that the city and county could compromise on what had become one of the more volatile political issues in recent years.

After seven months of negotiations, City Council members and county commissioners appear ready to sign off on a new intergovernmental agreement that will preserve the city's relationship with the Regional Building Department.

Such cooperation is worthy of kudos - and also a reminder that the agreement will fail if it doesn't ultimately solve years of disputes about the operation of the building department and its ability to meet city needs.

Officials on both sides say the draft agreement irons out many of those issues. If approved, the new IGA will stipulate that the building department collect city-specific fees to cover the costs incurred by city departments while reviewing building permits. The county also will establish a separate enterprise fund to be managed independently of the county's general fund. The building department's advisory users board will be replaced by an oversight committee made up of city and county officials. Other changes also are in store.

Provided the city and county sign off on the agreement, the most significant remaining question is how much building permit fees will increase. The city is justified in making sure it collects enough money in fees to cover the costs it incurs in the permitting process, but fees should not exceed what is required to reimburse those costs. That Routt County's building permit fees are considerably less expensive than those collected in other resort communities will mean little if the updated fees aren't an accurate reflection of costs incurred by the city, and nothing more.

If these and other long-standing issues are resolved by the new IGA, it will represent nothing short of a significant political feat for Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials.

Comments

Steve Lewis 5 years, 11 months ago

I read Bob Enever's letter in today's TODAY about the Pilot's silence on millions in underpaid building department fees our council is about to forgive for building projects still under construction.

http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2008/sep/10/bob_enever_swept_under_rug/?opinion

I recall the Pilot's July 6th editorial warning community organizations to "tighten their belts" for upcoming City budget cuts. Council has since indicated it may cut community organization funding nearly in half.

How can the Pilot ask community organizations to accept so much less, and then ignore the City's forgiving millions in tax dollars owed?

Am I missing something? Is this really the way City Council and the Pilot would have it?

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