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Stark County may privatize some inspections

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Stark County may privatize some of its building inspections because of the heavy workload.

Forsgren Associates Inc. gave its sales pitch to Stark County commissioners Tuesday at the county courthouse, and commissioners were receptive to the idea of getting some extra help.

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Forsgren Municipal Services manager Clarence Kemp told the commission he is “sensing some frustration” related to things like long turnaround time for building permit applications.

The firm would help the county set up a building department, perform building plan reviews and carry out post-build inspections.

Forsgren currently does similar services for McKenzie County, Dunn County and the city of Dickinson — with which Stark County has contracted out its inspections for at least 15 years, State’s Attorney Tom Henning said.

In this work, Forsgren has helped the counties and city keep up with rapid oil-related growth, and that’s why Stark County commissioners showed interest in the same services.

“I think that is something that we’ve been needing,” Commissioner Duane “Bucky” Wolf said.

Commissioner Jay Elkin said he often hears from developers who have to wait for permit approvals to get started on building.

County tax director Diane Brines told commissioners she thinks the county would benefit from the partnership. The county is three to four months behind on permits, she said, and it’s hard for inspectors to get into homes for final inspections with how fast the homes are being built.

Plus, Brines said, Dickinson has enough of its own work to do.

Some western North Dakota counties and cities have similarly turned to privatizing parts or all of their engineering because of the rapid growth in infrastructure.

Forsgren’s closest offices are in Watford City and Bismarck, but Kemp said the company is interested in a greater presence in Dickinson. At the least, the company would come to pick up permit applications twice weekly, he said.

The firm would bill the county a percentage of the fees charged to builders, according to a letter from Kemp to commissioners.

Additionally, the firm would charge $15,000 to $20,000 for preliminary work establishing forms and procedures.

The commissioners will think on the proposal and meet with Forsgren representatives again at a later time.

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