Building Department layoffs are up for vote

Building Department plans to cut 3 staff members

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— Routt County Regional Buil­ding Department Official Carl Dunham is expected to ask the Routt County Board of Commissioners today to approve plans to lay off three full-time employees, a move that would save the department $66,000 through the balance of 2010.

Dunham said the reasons for the layoffs are declining revenues and workload.

“The Regional Building Department operates financially as an enterprise fund, with all revenues generated through the building permitting process used to fund the operations,” Dunham wrote in a memo to the commissioners. “With this in mind, we must be aware that we are tied to the hills and valleys of the construction industry. … If the revenue is not there, we must trim our staff to enable the available funding to cover costs.”

The Building Department’s status as an enterprise fund makes it different from other county departments whose budgets are underwritten from the general fund.

Asked Monday if he anticipated layoffs in other departments, Commissioner Doug Monger said, “Not at this time, no.”

County Manager Tom Sull­ivan said that on an annual basis, the layoffs would save the Building Department $247,000 — the figure of $66,000 for the balance of 2010 has had unemployment benefits subtracted from it.

Dunham wrote that he had obtained agreement from the Building Department Oversight Committee on May 12 to cut one administrative assistant, one plan review employee and one field inspector from his staff.

The cuts would leave the department with six staff members, down from 13.5 in early 2009.

Monger, who co-chairs the oversight committee, said the three latest layoffs had been anticipated earlier, but after discussions, they were deferred so the department could complete a variety of work resulting from pre-existing permits.

“We kind of knew we were heading this way if we didn’t have a turnaround,” Monger said. “We’ve talked to (building) contractors who have told us there’s almost no work out there.”

Dunham previously had said that 2009 revenues were about half of the average of the least active five years in the previous decade.

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.

Monger observed Monday that even the controversial step of raising fees didn’t help the Building Department’s fiscal challenges — higher fees on stagnant permits don’t raise any additional revenues.

Dunham has declined to discuss the details of the layoffs until he presents them to the commissioners. The matter is scheduled to be taken up between 10:05 and 10:15 a.m. today.

Sullivan serves on the oversight committee with Monger and with elected officials and department heads from the city of Steamboat Springs. He said the affected employees are aware of their situation.

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