On Oct. 26, the Watertown Council concluded their ongoing discussion regarding building permits and inspection. Part of the discussion was the interview of MNSpect, an outside company that would allow for contracting instead of bringing in city staff. MNSpect was one of the companies at the special meeting back in September, and the interview gave them the chance to explain their role in this process.

For those unfamiliar, this discussion regarding the building services model has been ongoing, but has become more pressing due to the termination of the current partnership with Delano. With that termination looming, a solution needed to be found before the new year. There is also the issue that permits tend to be handled slowly due to work load, hence the partnership dissolving.

There were two possible solutions: hire a new staff member to handle the work load regarding building services, similar to what was already being provided; or bring in an outside company. With the decision to outsource, MNSpect was a candidate. In fact, before former city administrator Shane Fineran left Watertown, MNSpect provided a quote.

Jacob Foster, current Watertown city administrator, presented the item to the council. Office manager Tracy Montgomery and Ty Turnquist, public relations officer, were also at the meeting for MNSpect. The council had a list of questions to ask, and the first was how MNSpect would interact with the public and how that time interacting with them would be billed.

Turnquist mentioned that staff at MNSpect would prefer to meet with any residents regarding their projects, including going to the property to get a better feel for the project. How that’s billed isn’t all that different from normal procedures, so it’s not complex, he said.

MNSpect is also willing to work with the city regarding tree preservation and keeping in line with city regulations. Mike Walters, councilmember, asked if MNSpect also works with sewer and water projects. Turnquist answered that it’s preferred to work with Public Works and the city engineer for sewer and water, but they do participate in the process.

The permits, building and inspection, would be handled entirely by MNSpect. They are currently working on a software program for ease of use which is to be released in the next few months. This will allow users to log in, look at a project status, contacts, and more. Contractors and users alike will use this program. Montgomery stated that MNSpect is always open to calls, even for something like the hailstorm or expired contracts. They also prefer to speak with contractors and clients, especially regarding status of the permit.

Regarding speaking with homeowners, MNSpect prides itself on getting back to them within a day, by email or phone call. According to Turnquist, there are plenty of ways to communicate with the public.

“We can have somebody here at the city if that’s the model if the city wants to do,” he said.

The general phone number given to clients will also be a great avenue for communication, and any questions they may have about the process. If possible, it would be best to speak to the person overseeing for their specific contract. And unless someone calls late in the evening, standard for MNSpect is to call back within the day. MNSpect would also work with the city to keep ordinances clear for all parties.

After all questions were answered, it was time to discuss. According to Lindsay Guetzkow, councilmember, staff are comfortable with MNSpect and their references checked out. With all that said, the plan is to keep moving forward with MNSpect and get things ready for full approval.

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