Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Contractors keep quiet

Ketchum council hears no opposition, signs ProjectDox contract with state

Express Staff Writer

Despite builders' angst expressed in a meeting among themselves last week, not one mentioned his concerns to the Ketchum City Council on Monday about the city's signing a contract with the state in which all building plans for Ketchum construction would be reviewed by the Idaho Division of Building Safety in Boise.

The six-month pilot project is expected to be up and running by January.

Builders said during a meeting of the Building Contractors Association of the Wood River Valley on Thursday that they're worried about losing a local face to provide one-on-one attention.

That concern stems from the fact that the contract—unanimously adopted by the council on Monday—allows the city to use the division's $300,000 ProjectDox program at no cost. ProjectDox allows contractors and architects to submit building plans online from anywhere instead of physically turning in printed blueprints. The city will still accept printed blueprints for the time being.

The division will review all building plans in Boise via the Internet and has moved one of its employees, Cedric "Suds" Knehans, into Ketchum to replace the city's building official and inspector, Dennis Keierleber, who has been laid off as a result.

The state will continue to pay Knehans' salary, but the city will give a percentage of its building-permit fees to the division to cover its cost of reviewing plans in Boise and paying Knehans.

City Administrator Gary Marks asserts that the city will save about $50,000 a year, a conclusion he came to after calculating the expenses and revenues of the past few years—consisting of busy and slow times for construction.

The division said this partnership is the first of its kind, with Ketchum being the only Idaho city using the state's ProjectDox software.

"I'm not saying it's going to be a perfect system once we kick it off," Knehans said during the builders' Thursday meeting.

Building-industry professionals weren't so much concerned about possible ProjectDox hiccups during the informal meeting with Knehans as they were about losing service they had up to now.

Dave Wilson of Wilson Construction said that when he and everyone else in the room pays for a building permit, they're paying for a service, and want to make certain that the local service of a building inspector/official willing to work through a project is retained.

"That would be a critical element," he said, because architects submit changes to building plans after the original plans are approved, and contractors need a local building inspector/official on the ground so the project isn't stalled waiting for changes to be approved by someone in Boise.

Knehans said he's a certified plan reviewer.

"What I'm hearing is communication is really important," said Sue Woodyard of the Building Contractors Association of the Wood River Valley.

Knehans has been on the job a month and said "change takes time," emphasizing that he will give the same degree of attention to projects, small and large, that Keierleber did.

"Luckily and unluckily, business is slow," Knehans said, which allows him to devote time and attention to every project and start building a rapport with the building community.

However, he said, the amount of Ketchum construction is expected to snowball. Marks has said that was the reason for the partnership, emphasizing that ProjectDox will expedite the reviewing process, especially for the hotel projects of immense scale expected to come down the pike, such as Bald Mountain Lodge, Warm Springs Ranch Resort and Sun Valley Resort's River Run base village.

Knehans said he wouldn't be able to handle those hotel plan reviews and inspections on his own on top of the usual projects.

"As soon as this comes, the state's willing to hire building inspectors to back me up," Knehans said, mentioning that two additional inspectors would be made available to Ketchum and stay as long as the demand persists.

He said the state's plan reviewers in Boise would also keep the city from becoming inundated with building-permit applications. Knehans urged builders to wait and see how the partnership with the state works out. The contract, though signed and final, allows the city to merely try out ProjectDox for six months before committing.

"This is a pilot project," Knehans said. "If we fail here, we're not moving forward."

Trevon Milliard:

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