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Beavercreek considers dropping inspection contract

Despite criticism and new competition from other providers, Greene County officials say they are best equipped to provide building inspection services to Beavercreek businesses even as the city considers replacing them.

“We have a more than 50 year relationship with Beavercreek (as a township and then as a city),” Al Kuzma , the county’s chief building official, said. “We’ve been very successful. You can really see that based on the amount of development. We looked at everything and it is all safe development. We have had no major incidents.”

The city is considering dropping its automatically renewing contract with the Greene County Building Regulation and Greene County Combined Health District which provides plumbing inspections.

Councilwoman Debborah Wallace said the city is or has reviewed all of its contracts with outside entities and agencies. Still she said the inspection contract with the county agencies is of particular concern. She said the city reaps no financial benefit and she has heard more than 60 complaints from business owners about dealing with county inspection, including inconsistent rates, nitpicking and long wait times.

“I’d like to see the contract go someplace else to shake it up, show them that they are not god-like,” said Wallace, a Beavercreek business owner. “Either we get the service (businesses) are paying for or we get the service from someone else who can do a better job.”

The building regulations department provides residential and commercial permit and inspection services for all cities and villages in the county with the exception of Fairborn, Bowersville and Clifton.

Kuzma said 40 to 50 percent of work occurs in Beaverceek. Statistics are kept about permits, but not number of job sites.

The department issued 4,928 permits in 2011 and 4,714 the previous year. The were 2,461 permits issued by the end of July. The department’s 2012 budget is $726,511. Kuzma said last year’s revenues were $1.1 million due partly to the construction of eight schools in the county. Thus far this year, revenues are in-line with the $749,692 from fees brought in in 2010, he said.

Statistics related to plumbing inspections in Beavercreek were not immediately available, Debbie Leopold, the health department’s environmental health director, said.

Building regulation and the health department are now jointly vying for the contract against four other entities: the City of Fairborn, the City Centerville and two private Dayton based companies, National Inspection Corporation and Smith & Young.

Beavercreek Planning Director Jeffrey M. McGrath said the city has limited influence over the building permit and inspection process and does not fund it.

“We don’t pay now. We don’t want to pay anything in the future,” he said.

A new contract might provide some revenue to the city, officials said. Businesses currently pay the county agencies permit fees which go to the county’s general fund or to the health department.

A report based on McGrath’s evaluation of the five bidders’ services will be presented to city council next month.

McGrath said he has heard of problems with the county agencies, but non have been reported directly to his department.

Wallace said several business owner fear retribution if they complain formally.

“I have heard so many small businesses complain,” she said. “Why should a poor, little business owner be afraid to speak the truth?”

Wallace said she tried to get a picture of the problem two years ago, but the county failed to follow through. The county failed to issue satisfaction surveys to businesses that would have been returned to the city, she said.

“I’d like to see the contract go someplace else to shake it up, show them that they are not god-like,” said Wallace, a Beavercreek business owner. “Either we get the service (businesses) are paying for or we get the service from someone else who can do a better job.”

Stephen Alexander and his mother Cynthia Boles said they have faced unnecessary delays in opening Signature Confections, a retail chocolate shop in the U1 Commons plaza, due to the department’s inaction.

“They nitpick and beat up on you,” Alexander said. “This was suppose to be a four week renovation and it is going on three months now and we are still waiting.”

The business’s final electrical permit was approved Wednesday, the day after Alexander and Boles were interviewed for this story.

Kuzma said the delays the family faced were unusual and due to vacations in the department of 11 employees and three contractors.

The department has 30 days after the receipt of a completed application to either approve or deny that application and plan. Following that and after issuing any corrections needed, the department aims to complete the plan review process within two to three weeks, Kuzma said.

He didn’t have data, but said complaints from businesses have increased in recent years.

“Just because of the economy people are pretty stressed out. They are trying to save a buck and do the right thing. The perception is that ‘we have to keep this economy going and I’d like to get started on this.’ It is perceived that the building regulation process is holding it up,” Kuzma said. “Our staff has been on the other side of the street. We have all been business owners. We don’t want to prevent development. We want save development.”

Frank Taylor, owner of Beaver Construction, along with representatives from The Greene, the Mall of Fairfield Commons and about eight other companies wrote letters of support for the county agencies keeping the contract with Beavercreek.

Taylor said he disagreed five years ago with the department over a site proven to be in the flood plain following a survey. He appreciates the thoroughness and accessibility to Beavercreek.

“They stuck to their guns, he said. “I didn’t agree with the chief until I found out his stance was correct.”