Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Steamboat Springs With the support of the Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association, the Routt County Regional Building Department today will ask county commissioners to approve fee increases it says are needed to sustain the department.
Routt County Building Official Carl Dunham will present a request to the Routt County Board of Commissioners at
11:10 a.m. today in the Commissioners Hearing Room as part of an ongoing effort to stabilize the department.
Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association board member Mark Halvorson wrote a letter supporting the increased fees, noting that it’s ironic for the association to take such a step.
“In these times, any additional cost is of importance. … However, if we don’t have a viable Building Department to handle current responsibilities, it will be a deal breaker for the community,” he wrote.
During a preliminary meeting with the commissioners Monday, Dunham said he’s not trying to save the jobs of department staff, but rather trying to maintain a level of service as new buildings require inspections.
“It’s no fun to have it cost more money, but … in my opinion, this is not an issue of saving jobs. It’s an issue of sustainable service levels,” Dunham said.
Dunham said by law, the Building Department is not allowed to generate income for the county. The department, which provides building permits and conducts building inspections for all of Routt County except the town of Hayden, operates as an enterprise fund, meaning it supports itself on the fees it collects for its services. Dunham says the 58 percent proposed increase to the cost of building permits is needed to stop the rapid decline of the department’s fund balance. That balance has decreased by $800,000 this year.
In his letter, Halvorson wrote that he and the Construction Trades Association are supporting the temporary increase because it will allow faster construction in the future.
“I think the reality is that if services are further reduced, that reduction will equate directly to a slowdown in issuance of building permits, as well as a slowdown in inspections because of a lack of staff,” he wrote. “That possible slowdown will probably have a direct relationship to employment in Steamboat Springs.”
Halvorson said because many contractors have only one job at a time, a delay in approvals could delay income and force staff cuts.
Dunham said the increase in costs is intended to be temporary and that the fee structure could vary from year to year as the economy recovers. To ensure that the fee hike doesn’t become permanent, Dunham said he plans to add language into the resolution that would recommend the commissioners re-evaluate the fees regularly.
City waiting on county
Dunham presented the same request to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Nov. 17, but council members decided to delay a final decision.
Council members voted, 5-2, to approve the fee increase request on its first reading, but said at the time that they would like to wait to see how the commissioners handle the request before finalizing their decision.
The Routt County Regional Building Department operates under an intergovernmental agreement between Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs.