Software, privatization discussed during Routt County Regional Building Department meeting

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— There are multiple timelines at work in the future of the Routt County Regional Building Department, and not all of them line up perfectly.

Software finalists

From the request for proposals that Routt County sent out in November 2013, the list of finalists was narrowed to three options: Accela, Meritage and ViewPoint.

SAFEbuilt was involved in the development of Meritage, but the software would need multiple other vendors to fill the requirements of Routt County, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

Accela was the most expensive, with a 10-year cost of more than $1.125 million. Meritage was slightly cheaper, at about $1.06 million.

ViewPoint was significantly less expensive, costing just $276,615 if the department purchases the software but growing to $810,000 if its software as a service cloud option is used. The software as a service option is based on a monthly cost of $135 per user.

The proposals assume 50 users of the software, but the eventual number of users across city and county departments could be different. The total cost of the software would be distributed across the departments that use it.

Members of the Regional Building Department Oversight Committee said they were impressed with how ViewPoint stacked up against the other two more expensive options.

The purchasing department is doing reference checks on the finalists, and staff from the city and county will travel to see the software in action in other places.

During Friday’s Regional Building Department Oversight Committee meeting, County Commissioner Tim Corrigan laid out the discussions from November 2012 till now about new software and possible privatization of the department — not to mention the retirement of the county’s chief building official, Carl Dunham, on March 5.

More than 40 members of the building community were at the meeting Friday, and they raised questions about why privatization was being discussed, the possible issues that might arise from a private building department and the perception that privatization was being rushed through.

“I want to hear why we’re here,” said Tom Fox, of Fox Construction.

Steamboat Springs City Council president and committee member Bart Kounovsky said government should function in the light of day. “From where I sit, we need to explore that possibility if they have a proposal that has merit.”

Corrigan and County Manager Tom Sullivan made clear that the original idea of privatization came from the city of Steamboat Springs, but Sullivan said that now — with Dunham’s impending departure, the lowest building volume the department has seen in some time and fewest staff members — seemed like the time to consider the option if it was out there.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark said she saw opportunities in the timing.

“We were looking at million dollar software, and it was frightening,” she said, noting that one software finalist, ViewPoint, was significantly less expensive than the other options. “We sat down initially, discussed this and decided together for our constituents that we should keep this together and look at all of our options.”

The proposal from SAFEbuilt to privatize the department lists services and timelines for deliverables that are comparable to what currently are offered by the building department, Corrigan said.

SAFEbuilt also promises a 15 percent reduction in fees.

Dunham said he calculated how the reduction in fees would affect a project such as Casey’s Pond and said it amounts to less than 0.1 percent of the project cost. For a smaller project such as a home, he said, it would be about 0.14 percent of the total cost.

Fox said the fee reduction was so small as to not even be worth discussing.

“If you think you’re doing us a favor, you’re not,” he said.

The reduction proposed by SAFEbuilt is less than the about 18 percent fee increase in 2009 to sustain the department through the drop off in activity. Dunham said the department did promise to drop fees when it could and that annual performance has been improving.

Those in attendance also expressed concern about what would happen to the department’s longtime employees.

Sullivan said if there is a change with the department, he wants to make sure Routt County does right by its employees.

“Not everyone sees it that way, but that’s how I see it,” he said. “We have some great loyalty. I feel loyalty to them.”

“It’s going to be very important to have building department that’s responsive to the specific needs of Routt County,” said Joe Robbins, a local architect. “The building department should answer to people of Routt County through the county commissioners.”

While the finalists for the software discussion have been chosen — Corrigan said he hoped to have a decision by the end of March — members of the oversight committee said the discussion about privatization still was in its early stages and that no decision had been made.

Ron Goodrich, of Goodrich Building Services, said it clearly was the 11th hour with Dunham’s retirement looming.

“If you were going to move (the) process forward smoothly, it should have happened a long time ago,” he said. “How do you make a smooth transition?”

“My concern is that, as a design professional in this community, I’m getting very, very busy,” said Katie Kiefer, of West Elevation Architects. “My hope is that we can make a swift and reasonable decision about how this moves forward.

“We have a room full of building professionals that need to get back to work and get people back to work.”

Sullivan said the county will contract for building official services, and other members of the department’s staff will remain in their usual roles after Dunham’s departure.

“We’re going to continue to have the same level of service that we have been having,” he said.

In response to a question about the next step for the committee, Corrigan said the members need to have that discussion.

Mark Halvorson, of Snow Country Construction, said now that the committee has a list of names and email addresses from the meeting’s sign-in sheet, it can communicate more effectively with the building community as the process unfolds.

“I hope that what you’re hearing is that there’s an opportunity, as well, to screw this up,” said John Shively, of Shively Construction.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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