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Madras plans to terminate contract


   This week, the city of Madras officially provided written notification to the county that it intends to terminate its building inspection services agreement with the county.
   Under the agreement, approved in June of 2002 by both the city and the county, either party can terminate the contract upon written notice prior to Dec. 31 of a given year.
   City Administrator Mike Morgan cited confusion, delays, management errors and loss of accountability as a result of the split system, when he discussed the reason for the city's decision to terminate the agreement.
   "We're trying to reduce the level of fragmentation and make it more one-stop shopping," Morgan said Monday, during a city work session.
   County Administrator Matthew Birnie said the intergovernmental agreement is irrelevant to determining who has authority for the building inspection project. "The only effect it will have is to terminate that agreement. We derive our authority from the state."
   Jefferson County performs building inspection services under delegated authority from the Building Codes Division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, according to Birnie.
   "We do not perform the building inspection services for the municipal corporation of the city of Madras," he explained. "Madras has no authority to assume the building program or terminate our performance of the program. Only BCD has that authority."
   Birnie said he intends to ask the commission for authority to terminate the intergovernmental agreement on Wednesday at the commission's meeting.
   Chris Gannon, director of the Jefferson County Community Development Department, commented that his department has not caused delays in issuing building permits. "We're not interested in delaying anyone. We have a very streamlined process."
   "We've been adding inspectors and support staff so that permits are issued efficiently and very fast," Gannon said. "Any significant delays to a project in the city are due to the planning and zoning issues that the city addresses and approves, not the county."
   Gannon pointed out that city staff does all the planning and zoning for projects within the city. "Once they approve the planning and zoning request, it comes to us," he said. "We actually conduct the plan reviews and issue the building permits."
   He continued, "There are no delays once a project comes to us and the only delays there could be would be a result of us not having enough information to do the plan review."
   When he recently began tracking permits, Gannon said that he found that, on average, the city was taking about 32 days to go through the planning process.
   Mike Roberts, building official for the county, noted that most inspections are done on a next-day basis. "Currently Jefferson County Building Division has a one-day turnaround for simple, single family dwellings, and three days for complex residential and commercial applications."
   The department has seven inspectors, including Roberts who is multi-certified. The inspectors include: one full-time inspector for Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, one full-time electrical inspector, and another on call; two other full-time multi-certified inspectors; and one full-time plans examiner, who is also multi-certified.
   Morgan said that the city has had no problem with the building inspectors. "We think that the building inspectors are doing a good job," he said. "They are well-liked and respected."
   He is concerned that, at times, the county is unaware of the city's codes, and issues permits that don't include all necessary requirements. As an example, Morgan said that the city requires attached garages for manufactured homes, but sometimes the permits have not included the garage.
   The building inspector inspects the property according to the approved construction drawings, including the site plan, Roberts said.
   "There's no requirement in the state building code for a garage to be placed in association with a manufactured dwelling," he said. "If the site plan does not indicate a garage, the inspector won't even know to look for it."
   Roberts said he would rather be notified of problems as they occur so he can take action. "If we were notified of complaints as they came in, we could find out where the problem exists and be proactive rather than reactive to conflict resolution."