Committee will discuss privatizing Routt County Regional Building Department | SteamboatToday.com

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Committee will discuss privatizing Routt County Regional Building Department

— At 11:30 a.m. Friday, the Regional Building Department Oversight Committee will meet in the commissioner's hearing room to discuss the possible privatization of the department.

The committee has been considering proposals for a software upgrade to replace its current permitting system, and along with that process, came the conversation about letting a private company, such as SAFEbuilt that runs Hayden's building department, take over the department.

According to Routt County officials, the decision about what permitting software to pursue will drive the conversation about privatization.

The regional building department was formed by an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County and is an enterprise fund that depends on permit fees for its sole source of revenue.

The department has budgeted for a software purchase, according to Routt County commissioner and committee member Tim Corrigan, and departments such as planning and environmental health, which would use the permitting system, would contribute from their own reserves.

One of the major goals of the software search is to allow concurrent review between all the departments across governments that have to review permits. For example, Steamboat staff members review building permits for projects within city limits before they are issued. Currently, the paper permit is circulated to the different bodies that need to sign off on the project.

The oversight committee is a recommending body, but the city and county will make their own choices about what software suits all or some of their needs.

What is not up for discussion Friday is splitting the department. The 2007 attempt by the city of Steamboat to break away from the regional department and outsource the process failed, and all of the oversight committee members said it is not up for discussion now.

The regional department also provides services for Oak Creek and Yampa, which both have ex-officio members on the oversight committee.

Two of the three final proposals were for software packages only while SAFEbuilt paired software with outsourcing the department.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said it was incumbent upon him to do the cost analysis of the available options. City Manager Deb Hinsvark said evaluating the privatization option was part of her due diligence to determine what's the best way forward for the department.

City Council president and committee member Bart Kounovsky said that this conversation is an opportunity to improve the function of the department.

Corrigan said he could support privatizing the department if it stayed unified, provided equal or better service for lower fees and showed some consideration for the regional department's existing employees.

But Corrigan said he does have some concerns about a privatized building department.

"I worry that a privatized department won't have the ability to accommodate unusual local situations," he said about special circumstances that can arise from renovations of older or historic buildings.

Feedback from members of the building community who have experience with SAFEbuilt in Hayden is mixed. Some report longer wait times for inspections and higher costs associated with fees while others state that they have had no issues with the process or fees.

"We really need to hear from the building community," Corrigan said about the upcoming decisions.

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