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Paonia considers private company for building services

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The Town of Paonia is considering hiring an outside company to provide services currently handled by the building department.

The problem is, the town has no building inspector, hence, no building department. Following the dismissal of former part-time building inspector Dave Coleman last December, the town has not found a suitable replacement. Three applicants responded, but so far, said town manager Ken Knight, all of them would require training and certification, which the town would have to pay for.

The town is again advertising the position, and applications will be accepted through this Friday, Feb. 23.

With numerous home renovations, inspections required at the Silver Leaf Cohousing currently under construction on Third Street, and numerous other ongoing and upcoming projects, business is steady, said Knight. The town provided about twice the services in 2017 as it did in 2016, and so far, 2018 is not showing any signs of a slowdown. Knight said staff is picking up the slack until a new inspector can be hired.

At the Feb. 13 board meeting, trustees voted to allow Knight to pursue contracting building department services with SAFEbuilt, a private company providing building inspection, planning reviews, code enforcement, community development and other services to local governments.

Contracting with SAFEbuilt would be "a big move for the town," said Knight, and would likely transition the building department into "a compliance department as opposed to a building enforcement department." The board would have the option of addressing exemptions and other specifics through changes in the town code.

Hiring an outside company would require that the town relinquish control of building inspections, planning reviews and other services to a hired company. "Therefore, you do lose some local control," said Knight. The town would still determine its own building codes and ordinances, but would deal with the company, rather than its own building department.

Ouray and Montrose are also considering contracts with SAFEbuilt. In recent years, Ouray has shared a building inspector with the Town of Ridgway, said Knight. With building activities on the rise, Ridgway is no longer able to share its building inspector, and Ouray has yet to find a new inspector.

While they currently operate on the Front Range, if enough communities respond, SAFEbuilt could open a Western Slope office and begin providing services in the near future, said Knight.

Since SAFEbuilt charges based on a percentage of building permit fees, the town would lose that revenue, said Knight. They may also charge a fuel stipend. "These are all things that can be negotiated," said Knight, and the board would have the power to approve or deny any contract.

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