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Stark Co. partners with Forsgren for building services

Facing an increased workload like many western North Dakota counties, Stark County commissioners on Tuesday approved partnering with Forsgren Associates Inc. for the county’s building inspection and permitting services.

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Forsgren pitched itself to commissioners at their meeting two weeks earlier. Forsgren municipal services manager Clarence Kemp told commissioners at the time he was sensing frustration at the long turnaround time for building permit applications and similar delays.

Titled “chief building official,” Forsgren will help the county with its building plan reviews and post-build inspections. It would also have the authority to stop, or “red tag,” a construction project, which Kemp told commissioners Tuesday is an important power for the company to have.

Nonetheless, Commissioner Russ Hoff wanted to ensure the company wouldn’t have any more authority than the commission does.

Not so, Kemp said.

“We work for you,” he replied. “You are the boss.”

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

Kemp said at the Nov. 5 Commission meeting that 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.

Forsgren already provides similar services for Dunn and McKenzie counties.

“It would certainly appear that we should move forward with this,” Commissioner Ken Zander said Tuesday.

Zander referenced the delays in services, and “people having to jump through hoops to get some things done in a more timely fashion.”

Since the county currently contracts building services through the city of Dickinson, it must give the city notice of its intention to cut ties. But City Administrator Shawn Kessel approved a shorter than normal notice period, Zander said.

The county’s contract with the city will end Dec. 31, and Forsgren will take over effective New Year’s Day.