The Woodward City Council considered a change in its building inspection regime Monday after its current building inspector increased his rate by $15 per inspection. The council heard a pitch from a building inspector at the West Des Moines engineering firm of Veenstra and Kimm (V and K) and invited him to present a formal proposal at the council’s next meeting.
Woodward Mayor Brian Devick proposed the inspector switch after speaking with Jason Van Ausdall, a building code and city compliance specialist with V&K. Van Ausdall summarized his company’s services at Monday’s council meeting.
“We act as your building department,” Van Ausdall said. He said V and K’s first service would be a complete updating of Woodward’s building code so it conforms with the 2015 state building code and 2015 state fire code, the current standards.
He said updating the city’s building code and enforcing it by a certified building official, such as Van Ausdall, would improve the city’s Insurance Services Organization (ISO) rating. ISO rates communities according to the adequacy of their fire protection and building codes, and a higher rating means lower property insurance premiums for residents.
V and K would also field all building code questions from residential, commercial and industrial property owners wishing to build or modify a structure, questions that sometimes exceed the technical competence of city zoning officials.
“We want to take those problematic questions away from city staff,” Van Ausdall said, “and we can take care of that.” He said his office handles building inspections for 16 metro-area cities, including Dallas Center.
Van Ausdall said V and K would perform all site plan reviews, zoning reviews and finalized building plan reviews. The city would issue building permits on the recommendation of V and K, and the company would then follow up with inspections.
“We do all of the required inspections out there,” Van Ausdall said. “We do the problem resolution, and basically when we’re ready to issue the certificate of occupancy, we issue that out to the city and/or the owner of the building, and they’re ready to go.”
The council reacted positively to Van Ausdall’s presentation. Woodward City Council member Paul Thompson said he liked the prospect of a higher ISO rating for the city.
“As we’ve been increasing the costs to live in this town with water and sewage,” Thompson said, “it would be nice to show something where we could cut the cost a little bit on insurance.”
“Insurance companies aren’t going to allow that, Paul,” Council member Craig DeHoet joked. “They’re going to find another way of making that money. You’re living in a dream world, but it’s a nice thought.”
Devick said updating the city’s building code would facilitate the city’s growth.
“With the development that we’re looking at south of town and potential future development going on beyond that, I think having this stuff in order is a benefit to our community,” the mayor said.
Devick proposed the change in inspectors after the city’s current building inspector, Granger-based Finestead Enterprises Inc., proposed raising the inspection fee from $60 to $75 per inspection. Devick said a new arrangement with V and K “would not be a cost to the taxpayer” and would help guarantee even-handed treatment to permit seekers.
“Being consistent across the board is good,” he said. “When we’re government, anything that’s inconsistency is not good. We’ve even heard that tonight when some people think that one person gets treated different than somebody else. I don’t like that. Everybody should be treated equally. I like the fact that it’s being done by somebody who’s not a resident of the community. It’s not your next-door neighbor so you can’t claim that it’s favoritism that way.”
The council asked Van Ausdall to prepare a formal presentation for consideration at the Oct. 10 meeting.
In other city business, Devick addressed a rumor he said has been circulating around town.
“There’s talk all around town and conversation that the city is running rampant and we raised taxes 25 percent in two years and we’re out of control,” he said. “I want to clarify that in the fact that we did not do that. Four years ago, our taxes dropped because we were making the last payment on one of our loans. Three years ago, we had no payments on that loan, so our taxes were the lowest they’ve been in 15 or 20 years. We knew that going in, which is when we were planning for the street project to be done, so last year taxes started going back up with debt service to pay for the street work, and this year they are back to where they were before. For anybody that has any questions or wants to see it, I’ve had (Woodward City Clerk) Christina (Perkins) run a 10-year report on it, and our taxes right now currently are at a lower rate than they were 10 years ago, nine years ago, eight years ago, seven years ago, and you can look at it for yourself. I just want that clarified so everybody knows that.”
Council member Richard Hartwig then commended the Public Works Department’s newest employee, Josh Lingelbach, for his diligence in the performance of his duties.
The council was informed of the resignation of part-time billing clerk Amy Fleshner. The city seeks applicants for the vacant position, the mayor said.
The council reminded citizens that Saturday, Oct. 1 from 8 a.m. to noon has been set as Woodward’s citywide cleanup day. Tipping fees will be waived for the event, and the city will provide free dumpster service. Volunteers are needed and should contact the Woodward City Hall at 515-438-2560.