Routt County building department considers staff cuts

Layoffs pending because of decreased workload, building official says

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— The ongoing construction slowdown has Routt County Regional Building Department officials again considering staff cuts.

While acknowledging that the cuts are being proposed, Building Department offi­cial Carl Dunham declined Fri­day to discuss any details until the issue goes before the Routt County Board of Com­missioners on May 25. He said any decision to cut staff positions would be based on the department’s decreased workload as a result of the construction slowdown throughout the county.

The Building Department previously cut 4 1/2 positions in 2009, leaving it with nine staff members.

“Just like any construction company, we have to adjust our size based on the amount of work to be performed,” Dun­ham said.

The department is an enterprise fund, meaning it is designed to be self-sufficient, with the fees levied by the department funding its operations and payroll.

Late last year, the department asked for and received permission to increase building fees across the county. At that time, Dunham said the department’s fund balance decreased by more than $800,000 during 2009. The new fees took effect Jan. 1, but Dunham said it was not enough to offset the decrease in work.

“The whole idea of that was to prevent this,” he said.

So far this year, the revenue is similar to last year’s with valuations of newly permitted buildings at about $17 million. Dunham said late last year that the revenues in 2009 were about half of the average of the worst five years in the previous decade.

The biggest difference is that in 2009, there was still work leftover from gangbuster construction in 2008. This year, there is no outstanding work for the staff to complete.

“We don’t have that backlog of work doing inspections and tending to all the big buildings that were built during that time,” Dunham said. “We finished those buildings during the course of 2009 and now, because of the lack of applications in 2009, we’re experiencing a drop off.”

The remaining nine members of the staff include administrative, plan review and field inspection personnel. Dunham said the department will prepare for the pending cuts but will not take any other action in the lead-up to the May 25 meeting.

The Routt County Regional Building Department serves rural Routt County, Steamboat Springs and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa. Hayden contracts for its own building department services.

Comments

greenwash 4 years, 7 months ago

I wonder how many projects are going on without the proper permits?. Mabye the building dept should go out and drive around and have a look?I think they might be surprised.

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Doug Matthews 4 years, 7 months ago

Oh just raise the rates again. How's that working out for you? That will surely stimulate some extra interest in building starts, maybe get it up high enough so that one project a year will cover your whole budget? Then everyone who works for the government can keep their jobs, They should be immune to the problems faced by the private sector, shouldn't they? A couple of years ago, my kids were taught in school (right here in Steamboat) that 52% of the people in this country either worked for a government entity or received direct benefits from the government. That leaves the other 48% paying for their way. In the current economic situation, with 9.7% unemployment (up from 7.7% when Obama took office) that 9.7 % is predominately in the private sector, leaving an even greater imbalance in this 52:48 ratio. Layoffs in the building department should mirror the lack of work to be done. Period. Don't raise rates, instead, how about lowering them so there will be added incentive to build now, to give your employees something to do? Run government like I have to run my business.

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Fred Duckels 4 years, 7 months ago

I thought that when the rates were raised it was only prolonging the inevitable. It could be years before we have increased building activity. Loans will be hard to come by for the forseeable future. Not good news.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 7 months ago

So what is the current projected deficit for this year and the current level of reserves?

Maybe I am missing something, but last year they ran a $800K deficit and it seems unlikely that cutting 4 1/2 positions is going to save $800K so they would seem to be planning on running another large deficit.

I am worried that they are burning their reserves at a rate far quicker than any projected recovery of local construction activity. This will result in the dept in a year or two, when there is still a low level of construction activity, having to make further cuts to have no deficit or even a modest surplus to rebuild deeply deplete reserves.

It does not appear that they are utilizing their "surplus" reserves to help them retain expertise during a slowdown because they will have completely consumed their reserves long before any projection of a construction recovery.

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