County tries to salvage contract |

County tries to salvage contract

Letter to city lauds building services

Brandon Gee

— Two weeks after Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning told the Routt County Regional Building Department “this marriage is over,” county officials are taking steps to prevent the divorce.

In an Oct. 5 letter sent to Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord, the Routt County Board of Commissioners outlines why it believes the city should remain part of the county’s building department and lists possible steps that could improve the relationship.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Monday that the best way to provide building department services to the county is through one entity.

“You’re duplicating some efforts when you have two separate departments,” Stahoviak said. She added that despite hopes for reconciliation, the county is continuing to prepare for the city’s departure from the Building Department.

The Oct. 5 letter was in response to the city’s “request for proposal,” which invited applicants to describe their ability to provide building services for the city.

But the county’s letter falls short of a formal proposal.

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“We feel that our history as the building department for the city and our willingness to negotiate a new intergovernmental agreement : and our personal commitment to the community to provide the best service possible has already established our ability to meet your needs,” the county’s letter states.

DuBord said the letter would be considered along with any other responses, but acknowledged she had hoped for a complete response to the city’s request.

“It’s a response to the (request for proposal),” DuBord said Thursday, “but not the one we would have liked.”

In July, the Steamboat Springs City Council sent a letter to the Routt County Board of Commissioners informing them that the city wished to end its intergovernmental agreement with the Building Department. The agreement requires 12 months notice of cancellation, so it could remain in place until July 2008. The city has indicated it will hire a contractor to provide its building services, rather than staffing a department itself.

The looming departure was the topic of a tense special meeting of the department’s users’ board last month. At that meeting – and in response to questions the users’ board submitted in August to clarify why the city was considering an end to its agreement with Routt County – the city provided a 30-page, strongly worded response that included correspondence from as far back as December 2002, detailing the rift between the two governments.

During public comment at the users’ board meeting, various members of the construction community spoke in defense of the Building Department and asked the city to reconsider its decision. County Commissioner Doug Monger said the commissioners have continued to receive concerned comments in recent weeks.

“We’re responding to the city, but we’re also responding to the citizens,” Monger said Monday.

Proposals due

City officials said they believe they can provide a higher level of service than the county. Among other complaints, the city claims:

n County building officials are unwilling to enforce the city’s Community Development Code

n Building fees do not accurately reflect city personnel costs, resulting in city taxpayers subsidizing costs related to the permit process

n Calculation errors often appear on building permits

n The actions of county building officials present legal liability concerns for the city

The county’s letter identifies possible solutions to some of the city’s problems, mainly those related to the amount of fees collected and how they are collected. County commissioners remain firm that it shouldn’t be the job of county building inspectors to know or enforce the city’s Community Development Code, but their letter discusses a means to fund the hiring of city site inspectors for that purpose.

DuBord said the city has not received any other responses to its request for proposal, but noted that most contractors wait until the last minute.

Proposals are due by 5 p.m. today. DuBord said Thursday that she is expecting at least one more.

Steamboat construction constitutes the majority of the Routt County Regional Building Department’s work. The city’s departure would mean massive budget and personnel cuts, county officials said. Dunham said in July that $707,416 in building fees were collected in Steamboat last year, compared with $592,301 for the rest of the county. Dunham said he currently has about 15 people on staff.

In June, the town of Hayden gave the county similar notice that they were canceling their intergovernmental agreement with the Routt County Building Department. The town announced last month it has signed a contract with SAFEbuilt to provide its building department services.