State denies city's request
After a review of the city of Madras' application to assume the city's building inspection services from the county, the state has said no. The county will keep the building inspection program.
While seeking to assume the program, City Administrator Mike Morgan cited management errors, delays and loss of accountability with the system which has builders shuffling back and forth between the city and county offices.
The city applied to take over the program in September, and in January, the State Building Codes Division listened to both sides at an information gathering meeting in Madras.
On Feb. 28, city and county officials received the decision from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Building Codes Division in Salem.
"After a review of the record, the division concludes that the city of Madras will impair the Jefferson County building program," Andrea Simmons, manager of policy and technical services wrote. "Given this impairment, the division cannot approved the city's request for a full-service building inspection program."
County Community Development Department Director Chris Gannon was thrilled with the decision. "It's good news because it removes a lot of stress on our staff," he said.
"Some of the inspectors were worried about their jobs," said Gannon, who expected to lose about 40 percent of his department's revenue and staff if the city's request had been approved. "It put a cloud over the whole building program."
"This is just one step in a long journey," said Morgan, who felt there was no documentation to support the state's findings.
"The work load would diminish proportionally to the revenue," he said. "Government is not a full-employment jobs program; we hire enough to do the job."
Morgan said the city offered to let the county continue to provide services under contract with the city, and keep 90 percent of the revenue, but the county declined the offer.
As a result of recent problems with fee separation and collection, on Friday, the county notified the city that it will no longer collect city fees for construction.
"I firmly believe this change will result in improved accountability and will remove the potential for errors that now exists in the current process," Gannon wrote to Morgan.
Morgan said the city is ready and willing to collect its own fees -- and has been collecting street improvement fees and landscaping deposits for some time.
"We've already set up the process to collect the fees here," he said.
With the fate of the building inspection program resolved for now, Gannon commented, "It gets us back to focusing on customer service."