Just in case, county seeks to buffer building department with plan review backup | SteamboatToday.com

Just in case, county seeks to buffer building department with plan review backup

— Routt County Building Official Ben Grush projects that when final July numbers are tallied, year-to-date construction valuations will be up 10 percent over 2014. At the same time, county officials are making contingency plans for the possibility of a sharper short-term upturn in construction and building permit activity.

County Manager Tom Sullivan confirmed this week that the Board of County Commissioners has authorized issuing a request for proposals from private firms that could be available on a spot basis to perform building plan reviews, which are routinely conducted before building permits are issued.

"This month has slowed down a little bit, but we had a really good June, and overall, we're seeing more valuation," Grush said Wednesday.

Neither Grush nor Sullivan are predicting a building boom-let. They just want to be prepared

Assistant Building Official Ted Allen is comfortably handling 99.5 percent of all plan reviews coming into the office at present, Grush said Friday.

The city and county combined processed building permits valued at $86,497 — 785 in 2014. But in the context of the past 10 years, a 10 percent increase, or even a 50 percent annual increase, would leave 2015 construction valuation far below the peak years of 2007 ($250.7 million) and 2008 ($333.7 million).

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County Commissioner Doug Monger said this week that the decision to seek proposals from private contractors who might be available to take on some of the plan review duties wasn't so much in preparation for boom years like 2007 and 2008, but rather to provide a cushion in case unanticipated circumstances develop in the short term.

"We still believe we can ramp up and ramp down," as construction activity rises and falls, Monger said.

In this case, county officials are seeking an option, or perhaps several options, to buffer the Building Department against the possibility that a brief surge in construction could temporarily impact the department's ability to turn around plan reviews which routinely precede issuance of a building permit.

Grush said one scenario could arise if a current building inspector left the county's employment resulting in a need for Allen to step out of the office and into the field to carry out building inspections. A second scenario could arise if Allen chose to leave his job with the county.

Finally, Grush said hypothetically, "Let's say we're going to build a new fire station and a big set of plans came in, and two days later, somebody walks in and they're going to build a new Walmart out there," and then, in short order, plans for three large homes come in right behind the two larger projects for plan review.

That scenario might not signal a major resurgence in building and lead to the kind of activity the county and city saw from 2004 to 2009, but it could lead his department to call on the services on an outside contractor for temporary plan review services, Grush explained.

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

10 years of construction values

Ten-years of construction valuations in the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County as tallied by the Routt County Regional Building Department (figures include materials and labor, but not land or utility costs among others)

2014 $86,497,784

2013 $76, 619,938

2012 $78,808,090

2011 $51,422,835

2010 $55,194,975

2009 $74,155,051

2008 $333,741,849

2007 $250,689,555

2006 $188,502,132

2005 $202,203,757