Lox Groves Council Interviews Contractors For Building Services

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council directed staff to submit comparisons of two potential companies that provide certified building services. Both companies appeared at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Nova and SAFEbuilt made presentations at the meeting.

Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said both companies are publicly vetted from neighboring communities and would offer an array of services, including building officials, permitting, inspections, code enforcement and other services to run a building department for the town.

“The model that will pay for this is reinvesting the permit fees of the town that currently go out to the county, to use that available revenue that our building activities and code activities and permitting activities create in the town, and reinvest that money in taking control of the operation in the town,” Titcomb said.

He noted that both of the presenting companies have very similar business models.

Councilman Robert Shorr asked why the town would agree to a piggyback contract rather than submit a competitive bid for services, and John Stone with SAFEbuilt said the biggest advantage is to get something in place more quickly.

“The [request for proposals] process is a lot more cumbersome, and it does take a lot more effort and time to actually accomplish an RFP,” Stone said. “It certainly is an option. It’s not one that we’re afraid of. We respond to RFPs all the time.”

He said the advantage of a piggyback is more for the town. “That is to solve this problem sooner rather than later,” Stone said.

Mayor Lisa El-Ramey asked for a council consensus for staff to produce a comparison list of the services offered by each company, along with the costs.

Shorr said he felt contracting with either company would not solve the town’s problem of getting building approvals expeditiously. The town currently interfaces with the county in getting building permits.

“What I am hearing from contractors and personal experience is getting it out of town hall,” he said.

Titcomb said approving a contractor would take the county out of the approval process eventually and direct building approval revenue that now goes to the county back into the town. He added that the town process has been streamlined significantly with added technology.

“The timeline in processing through the town has drastically reduced, versus what has gone on in the past,” he said. “That’s because of our portals and our tools. What we want to bring in is our professional help, in terms of the building official side of this. That will close that loop so that the entire process is both controlled by the town and more efficient.”

Titcomb added that the town currently gives most of its building permit money to the county.

“Instead, the Florida Building Code allows us to reinvest that money in enterprise-type services to not only take control of these aspects of this code, but invest in growing that program to the town’s criteria,” he said.

The council agreed to have staff come back with a comparison chart for both companies at its Tuesday, Feb. 16 meeting.