Steamboat Springs County Manager Tom Sullivan expects a decision this week from the top candidate selected to lead the Routt County Regional Building Department, which conducts building permitting and inspections for both the city of Steamboat Springs and areas of the county outside the city limits.
“I made the offer for the position contingent on reference checks with the candidate’s current employer,” Sullivan said. “We’ve already talked to previous employers. He’s really a top-qualified individual — the chief building department official with a city.”
Routt County Commission chairman Tim Corrigan agreed that Sullivan had identified a strong candidate for the job that became vacant March 5, when former longtime building department official Carl Dunham retired.
“We had a good interview, he was a personable guy and his qualifications are all there,” Corrigan said. He added that the candidate is working in a community “similar in nature to Steamboat.”
The candidate for the position came from a second round of interviews necessitated by the fact that the first advertisement for the position, which had a deadline of April 18, drew only three applications. Two of those applicants met the basic qualifications for the job, but Sullivan wanted to see a broader range of applicants and re-advertised the post.
This time around, there were seven new applicants. Sullivan asked City Manager Deb Hinsvark and general contractor Mark Halvorson, a longtime member of the Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association, to participate in phone interviews with three candidates.
Two of the three were brought to Steamboat for personal interviews. The candidate to whom the job was offered was in town for four days with his wife and children, and together, they looked at the current housing market.
Corrigan said that in his 18 months as a county commissioner, he has reached the conclusion that county employees are not overpaid when compared to people working in similar government jobs.
For anyone who thought Routt County has a pretty high pay scale for its employees, his hiring experiences have debunked that notion, Corrigan said.
“It puts the lie to the idea we are overpaying our county employees,” he said. “If we were, people would be beating our doors down, and they’re not. Every time we have somebody come from out of town, the cost of living becomes an issue.”
Sullivan said the job requirements for chief building department official, in addition to a bachelor’s degree, include a certification for the job as well as one in an area of special expertise — residential electric or plan review, for example.
“This applicant has all of the above,” he said.
Sullivan had been acting as the interim county building official in administrative functions only since Dunham’s departure. Dunham’s retirement had been anticipated for months, but the position was kept open an unusually long time while the county, at the urging of the city of Steamboat Springs, studied the possibility of privatizing the building department’s functions and turning them over to a contractor.
Hinsvark informed the Building Department Oversight Committee in October 2013 that the city was undertaking that study. The county commissioners determined April 2 that they would not act on a proposal from SAFEbuilt. However, they did agree to invest $170,000 in new software and training long sought by Steamboat Springs City Council President Bart Kounovsky to help streamline review of building permits by city and county department heads.
County could restore 3rd position to HR department
In another county staffing matter, county commissioners could decide Tuesday to add a third person to the county's human resources department, filling a vacancy that has existed since the county imposed layoffs in 2009.
On Monday, Sullivan said the position was created in 2007 and then sacrificed during the recession.
In a recent memo regarding her need for a new staff member, human resources director Chris Hensen described how a return to a growing economy and new county initiatives such as the restaurant at Yampa Valley Regional Airport have made it increasingly difficult to keep up with the needs of the various departments in the county.
Routt County has 260 employees, and since 2009, Sullivan said he has met regularly with Hensen about how to prioritize her weekly tasks. In the process, he said he became convinced she needs an additional human resources professional on her staff.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1