Ira Wertenteil: Privatization sensible
April 9, 2014
Not only does it make sense for Steamboat to contract out the functions currently performed by the Regional Building Department to a private company like SAFEbuilt, but I can't imagine a rational business-minded argument for not doing it.
The town would save 15 percent on what it currently spends on these services, and plan review turnaround time would improve and inspections would be more convenient for contractors to schedule.
In an April 3 article about this issue, former building department official Ron Goodrich's only answer to SAFEbuilt's promise to turn residential projects around in three days and commercial projects in 10 days is that "it's not possible." Clearly, Ron has worked in the public sector too long.
From a business perspective, the problem with the local building department can be summed up in three words — no "economy of scale." Every "for-profit" business has an inherent size and volume where it operates efficiently. Reduce the demand, and that business just can't operate efficiently and profitably.
The local building department cannot operate efficiently because the volume of building in this town changes so much from month to month. No business could staff itself to accommodate such unpredictable business volume.
In contrast, a private contractor that manages building permitting in cities on the Front Range and in various mountain towns will have more year-round business, their staffing requirements will be much more predictable and they'll be able to move people around to accommodate seasonal variations in demand in different markets. The building department works for the local building community to get projects built in what is a very short construction season.
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If contracting out the building permit and inspection process to a private company such as SAFEbuilt will speed up the permitting and inspection process, then the local builders will benefit by getting into the ground more quickly each spring and with fewer interruptions, waiting for inspections. And that's good for everyone in this city, including the builders, the subcontractors, the employees in the construction trades and the end users of the completed projects. The fact that the town will be saving money is just an added bonus.