Construction booms, city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County weigh future of building department | SteamboatToday.com

Construction booms, city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County weigh future of building department

Construction booms, answers sought

Daniel Hallstrom works on the Skiview Place apartment building at the corner of Whistler Road and Skyview Lane in 2014.

10 years of building permit valuations

2016: $125.5 million

2015: $95.7 million

2014: $86.5 million

2013: $76.6 million

2012: $79.8 million

2011: $51.4 million

2010: $55.2 million

2009: $74.1 million

2008: $333.7 million

2007: $250.7 million

Source: Routt County Regional Building Department

— In the wake of the biggest construction season in nine years and with the 2017 season already off to a fast start, the leadership of the Routt County Building Department is in a state of flux once again, and there's even a possibility the county and the city of Steamboat Springs will go their own ways when it comes to permitting and inspecting construction projects.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners isn't wasting time looking for a new chief building official to replace Ben Grush, who retired last month from the head job at the department that serves both the city of Steamboat Springs and most of the county outside Steamboat. There are eight applicants for the opening.

But, in the knowledge that the city is currently studying all options for the future of the building department, including striking out on its own, it's easy to understand why commissioners are in a cautious mood.

They showed some hesitance May 1 about a proposal from County Manager Tom Sullivan and Assistant County Manager Dan Weinheimer (the latter is serving as the acting building department manager) to raise the salary scale for the top job in order to help with recruitment.

Sullivan confirmed Monday that City Manager Gary Suiter informed the county in a memo that he is "doing diligence" on whether the city should run its own building department, adding, "Gary has stated he's in full support of us going ahead with hiring.”

But Commissioner Doug Monger wondered aloud how that would work out if the city went in its own direction.

"Are we going to continue what we're doing?" Monger asked. "We don't need the quality at the price we'll be paying if the city isn't with us. I haven't decided whether we're going to need a department. I'd say SAFEbuilt (a private contractor).

Monger's remark about the “quality at the price,” alluded to the possibility that the county might not need as high-powered a chief building official if it's only permitting and inspecting in the county.

And the mention of SAFEbuilt, a private sector company on Colorado's Front Range which provides building services to governments on a contract basis, was ironic, whether or not that was intended.

It was in April 2014, only a month after longtime building department chief Carl Dunham retired and after a series of public hearings, that Monger and the rest of the Board of County Commissioners rejected a proposal from the city and former City Manager Deb Hinsvark for SAFEbuilt to assume operation of building department services here.

Suiter said Monday that he sent a memo to the county about his desire, upon the departure of Grush, to perform an analysis of the regional building department and consider all options. He also reached out to the Building Oversight Committee, which has a membership that includes building professionals.

"I want to get the data, look at it and then have a public discussion," Suiter said. "I'm not shoving anything down anybody's throats."

He added said that, while serving as interim city manager in Castle Rock, he had a very positive experience with SAFEbuilt.

Rewinding past history

Suiter said he told the county he wants to review past history of the regional building department. Next, he’ll analyze the department's inspection function, including current and projected costs, revenues, service levels and turnaround times. Finally, he wants to look at all the options, from taking the building department into the city to outsourcing.

County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said in 2014 he felt the county and city would be best served by continuing to operate the building department.

The regional building department is self-funded by fees, and this week, Corrigan ventured that the county could successfully fund and operate its own, smaller building department, based on recent construction activity outside city limits.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1