Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Hayden Citing an inability to reconcile problems with the Routt County Regional Building Department, the town of Hayden has signed a contract with SAFEbuilt Colorado to provide its building department services.
Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin told the Routt County Board of Commissioners in June that the town wanted out of its intergovernmental agreement with the county's building department, citing a desire to provide better service for Hayden citizens. Martin said centralizing the building and planning processes in Hayden - and thus removing the need to travel to Steamboat Springs several times during the building process - could cut two to three weeks from the building process. Since June, the town had left open the option to rework its agreement with the county, but the Hayden Town Board has now decided to move forward with a private contractor.
The county agreement requires a 12-month notice prior to cancellation, so SAFEbuilt - formerly the Colorado Inspection Agency - may not take over in Hayden until June 2008, depending on how the town and county decide to make the transition.
Tuesday, Martin stressed that the town has no complaints with the Routt County Building Department or its director, Carl Dunham. Martin said there are simply some things the town would like to offer that the county couldn't provide.
"I think the reality is not what the county is doing wrong, but what we want to be doing for our residents," Martin said. "It's not that the process is done bad, I just believe it can be done better."
Issues that couldn't be resolved between the town and county included the town's hope to make a building department official available in Hayden for a few hours a week to answer locals' questions. Martin said he was told that wasn't economically viable for the county.
Martin also said the town was having code enforcement issues. With county building department officials' time limited in Hayden and the town not having the staff to regularly monitor building projects, Martin said residents sometimes violated codes without knowing it, putting the town in the tough position of trying to correct problems after the fact.
"We feel like the growth in Hayden is just going to multiply these types of problems," Martin said.
The terms of the town's contract with SAFEbuilt will see the contractor keeping 80 percent of collected fees, with the remaining fees going to the town. Martin said fees only cover the costs of services and that the decision to form a separate building department was not a moneymaking one.
Martin said building fees will likely increase slightly.
"It's going to cost a little more," Martin said. "A little more hopefully means a little better service."
Martin said SAFEbuilt employees will set up offices in Hayden, possibly even in the Town Hall eventually, if the town is able to construct a new police station and move police personnel out of Town Hall.
"We hope people won't even be able to tell they're not town of Hayden employees," Martin said.
The city of Steamboat Spr-ings also has told Routt County it wants out of its current agreement with the building department. The city has not yet hired a contractor and, like Hayden's resolution, the city's includes a provision to try and improve its relationship with the county before doing so.
The city has indicated it has many of the same problems with the Routt County Building Department that Hayden cited. The city also would hire an outside contractor if it moves forward with its own building dep-artment, as opposed to hiring city staff. In July, City Council President Susan Dellinger said whichever contractor the town of Hayden chose would have an edge on competitors because of an existing Yampa Valley presence.
Hayden's departure, especially if coupled with Steamboat's, will mean a reduction in the size of the Routt County Regional Building Department, resulting in job and spending cuts, county officials said.
Last year, the county building department collected $707,416 in building fees in Steamboat and about $70,000 in Hayden, according to Dunham.
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