City cancels county agreement
Steamboat officials may seek separate building department
July 12, 2007
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs officials are unhappy with the level of service provided by the county building department, and the City Council approved a resolution Tuesday that would allow Steamboat to form a department of its own.
The council unanimously passed a resolution canceling the city’s intergovernmental agreement with the Routt County Regional Building Department. The agreement requires 12 months notice before termination, however, and there is a chance the city could work out its differences with the county in that time rather than go forward with its own building department.
The resolution follows a similar one passed by the town of Hayden last month. But unlike the Hayden resolution, county officials say they were caught off guard by the city’s decision.
“My concern is nobody talked to us about it, even though there were ample opportunities,” County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. “Not that I want to interfere as a county commissioner in city business, but this was an IGA between the two of us.”
Mitsch Bush said there was no mention of the resolution at a joint meeting Monday of city and county officials and that the county couldn’t get a hold of the text of the resolution until Tuesday. She said her concerns aren’t so much about this particular issue, but about how the city and county communicate in general.
“We have so many issues that face us, that we have to communicate,” Mitsch Bush said. “I’m just disappointed.”
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City Council President Susan Dellinger said the resolution shouldn’t have come as a surprise because the city has for years been discussing its problems with the county building department.
“I think we have different issues as an urban area,” Dellinger said.
With its own building department, Dellinger said the city would hope to improve responsiveness, quicken the process and have inspectors that could address not only building code, but also the city planning department’s regulations. Also, Dellinger said it is an unnecessary hassle for people to have to bounce between city and county offices throughout the building process.
Others think the current ar-rangement works just fine.
“I didn’t understand why they wanted to take something apart that is doing fine,” said John Shively of Shively Construction. “The building department has done well to move our requests through.”
Councilman Loui Antonucci agreed, and said he didn’t see any problem with the county building department. Antonucci said there are benefits to the city and county working together, such as the economies of scale resulting from a single department handling a larger number of projects.
Antonucci supported the resolution only after his “friendly amendment” was added directing city staff to try and work out their problems with the county and form their own building department only as a “last resort.”
“I think it’s worth another try,” Antonucci said. “I think our building department serves our community well. But apparently they haven’t been serving the city’s needs to the level they would like.”
Should the city move forward with its own department, Dellinger said it would not form its own building department staff, but hire an outside contractor. That contractor has not been chosen, but Dellinger said the Colorado Inspection Agency, a contract provider for building and safety services, has an edge on other competitors because they will already have a Yampa Valley presence. The Colorado Inspection Agency is the contractor Hayden has chosen to provide its building department.
Dellinger said building fees would increase, but that they were set to increase through the regional building department as well. Fees would not generate revenue, but only cover the cost of the building department, Dellinger said.
“They’re going to be reasonable,” she said.
Steamboat’s departure would mean a significant reduction in the size of the Routt County Regional Building Department, resulting in job and spending cuts, Mitsch Bush said.
Carl Dunham, the department’s director, said $707,416 in building fees were collected in Steamboat last year, compared with $592,301 for the rest of the county. Almost $400,000 has been collected in Steamboat as of the end of June this year, compared with $272,035 in the rest of the county.
Dunham said he thinks the county provides a high level of service and would have liked the city to provide more specific examples of problems, rather than generalities.
“We weren’t totally surprised by this,” Dunham said, “but there was never any real mention of them doing this.”