City contract could expedite development

Council enters agreement for building inspection services at behest of local builders

City contract could expedite  developmentBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

By request of many local builders and developers, the city voted to initiate an agreement with Wildan Engineering for building plan check and inspection services. The Ridgecrest City Council approved the professional services contract during a Nov. 15 meeting.

The city has a long relationship with Wildan, the engineering firm that conducted our Pavement Management Study in 2011 and more recently drew up a design for the proposed Freedom Park Splash Pad. Traditionally, Kern County provides inspection services for developers, but local builders have been dissatisfied with the county’s responsiveness.

“This item is brought to you tonight as a request from our building community,” said City Engineer Loren Culp during the council meeting. “We’ve had local builders request plan check and inspection services supplemental to the county services.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower said that “most of the builders in town” are willing to pay more to get a firm to offer inspection services locally, though enough interest could ultimately bring the costs down.

Solomon Rajaratnam, branch manager and commercial lender at Mission Bank, addressed the importance of a local inspector for economic development.

“We do a lot of commercial construction loans. At present we have three construction loans going on and none of them were completed within the timeframe we gave,” he said.

“We are having a problem where borrowers are not able to comply with the covenants not due to faults of their own, but because the county inspector is not coming or is delaying things. We have three more in the pipeline so it’s very important that we have an inspector who is active in our community so these developmental projects are completed.”

He said developers are delayed by sometimes more than six months waiting for county services.

Ron Porter asked Culp if the proposed service would create an issue with the county or if this was an opportunity open to other firms.

According to Culp, the city contracts with the county similarly to the way the city would contract with a private company. He added that county officials took no issue with the city reaching out elsewhere.

In regard to putting the services out to bid, Culp said “we would always welcome other municipal service consultants, but this was a matter of urgency.”

Members of council seconded the importance of quality, efficient inspectors for the economic growth of our community.

“I want to thank all the builders who for months and months have been contacting councilmembers for help,” said Mayor Peggy Breeden.

“We can grow when we support and understand each other. No barriers, only lines of communication we need to keep open.”

According to Culp, the contract will have no direct fiscal impact on the city. Each builder will pay a $4,200 deposit for inspection services to Wildan, who will then return any remaining funds to the city. The city will refund the builder, less 15 percent of the inspection fees to cover administrative costs for the city.

For work exceeding $4,200, the builder is required to deposit the full amount, plus 15 percent for the city. The contract ensures cash flow for Wildan to operate locally and covers costs incurred by the city.

Councilmembers unanimously approved the contract. The council next meets Wednesday, Dec. 6, 6 p.m. at City Hall. For agendas and information, see www.ridgecrest-ca.gov/ridgecrest-city-council.

Story First Published: 2017-11-22