2013 lacks strong trend for Routt County Building Department

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— The Routt County Regional Building Department saw the valuation of all new construction dip slightly from 2012 to 2013, from $78.8 million to $76.6 million, respectively.

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Building in Routt County underperformed the previous year in multiple categories, and where growth did occur, a clear trend wasn’t evident.

In 2013, the city of Steamboat Springs saw fewer single-family home permits and fewer additions and alterations to dwelling units compared to 2012. There was an uptick in the number of permits for all other alterations and additions in Steamboat, but the total fell short of 2011.

The other alterations and additions category encompasses work on commercial property and was the second largest valuation category for the department behind single-family homes. While the number of permits was up, the building department collected less in fees despite about $10 million more in valuation than 2012.

The valuation of construction outside of Steamboat in Routt County was up from 2012, but it was not enough to offset the drop in valuation within Steamboat.

In total, the building department collected $745,921 in fees in 2013, and its revenue was down from 2012.

During a building oversight committee meeting, building official Carl Dunham said that when the department raised its fees in 2009, it promised to reverse in the increase when it was possible. But, Dunham said, the department hasn’t reached a point where it feels confident doing so, given the fluctuation in work and revenue.

When the department raised fees, he said Monday, it saw a trend where it would have to borrow from the county’s general fund, and that wasn’t acceptable.

The county building department went from a 1985 uniform fee schedule to a 1997 fee schedule.

“I had comparisons to two other building departments around, and we were still one of the lowest,” Dunham said about the 2009 increase.

Dunham said the building department hasn’t seen a trend that would encourage him to lower fees back to where they were before 2009.

“I don’t think you want to have your fees fluctuate every year,” Dunham said.

The department is in the process of looking at options for new permitting software, and there could be costs like new monitors associated with that, he said.

And if there is a sudden uptick in the need for building services, Dunham said, the department would need money in the bank to hire additional staff.

“That’s why I said I don’t think it’s time to be looking at lowering fees,” Dunham said.

The department also should pay attention to its bottom line and see if there’s an opportunity to increase services, he said.

The department now offers stipends for staff with smartphones to quickly schedule re-inspections and take better photos of sites.

The new permitting software the department is looking at also could bring tablets or rugged computers into the field so inspectors could give better results to contractors as quick as possible.

But Dunham won’t be at the helm of the building department as it transitions into new software and technology nor as it looks for firm signs of stable growth.

The county’s longtime building official’s last day is March 5.

A couple of people have been stopping by the department office to say goodbye as his tenure closes, Dunham said.

Those wishing to see Dunham off are invited to attend a gathering being hosted at 4 p.m. Friday in the Commissioners Hearing Room in the Routt County Courthouse annex.

Routt County construction valuations

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

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