Our View: Regional building department software update a step forward | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: Regional building department software update a step forward

At issue

The regional building department‘s plans to update its software system

Our view

This is a positive step forward, and the city should drop its push for privatization.

The regional building department, which serves Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs and the towns of Oak Creek and Yampa, took a huge step forward last week when members of the oversight committee endorsed the department's plans to contract with a vendor for new software to streamline its permit-planning process.

The purchase will modernize the regional building department's outdated system, allowing for the simultaneous review of completed permits for compliance with zoning codes and planning department approval. As a result, turnaround on permit approvals should be expedited.

The need to modernize the department has been a point of contention for the city of Steamboat Springs, whose representatives serving on the department's oversight committee have been advocating for modernization and system upgrades for a number of years. Steamboat Springs City Council representative Bart Kounovsky has been asking for new software since at least 2011.

Most recently, the city announced it would like to see the department privatized as a way to improve efficiencies, and throughout the past several months, the city and county have explored that possibility. The result of that analysis was a proposal from SAFEbuilt, a Front Range company that currently provides services to the town of Hayden, which opted out of the regional building department a number of years ago. SAFEbuilt promises a 15 percent savings on building code permitting and enforcement costs, but County Manager Tom Sullivan expressed some doubt whether that much savings could be realized.

Last week, with the purchase of the new software, the county made clear that privatization of the department is no longer something it wants to pursue, and we hope the city will follow suit.

On Feb. 22, we editorialized against department privatization, and we stand behind that opinion. Abandoning a locally staffed building department to contract with a Front Range company for building plan review and construction inspection does not seem like the best option. The loss of local access and the concern that an outside company would not understand construction conditions here could prove costly, and it would be difficult to rebuild the department once it was dismantled.

Given this latest decision about new software, we hope the city will remain part of the regional department system as it monitors improvements advanced by the new software. We think many of the concerns voiced by those involved in the building permit process will be addressed by a new, more modern software system.

If the city's purpose in seeking privatization was to streamline the process and cost of building department operations, how would taxpayers benefit from the city and county duplicating services that now are handled by one regional department?

City and county officials recently traveled to Sheridan, Wyo., to meet with a city department there that is using the same software. The reviews were very favorable, and we have high hopes that Routt County will realize the same benefits of the new system and that needed changes within the regional department will be driven by the investment in new technology.

It's time for the city to lay aside its push for privatization and recommit to working with the county, giving the software time to prove itself before dismantling a regional system that is responsive to the specific needs of the Routt County construction industry and is working to be better.