Licking County Considers Outsourcing Building Department Licking County officials who have been working to create a building-code department now are thinking about farming out the work to a private company. Commissioner Doug Smith said officials began to consider having an outside agency provide its building-code services after learning that both Fairfield and Pickaway counties use a similar system. In each case, county employees provide a local point of contact, with the bulk of plan reviews and site inspections done by Asebrook & Co., a Columbus architectural firm. Licking County commissioners began advertising for bids for similar work Wednesday and plan to unseal them as early as Sept. 24. The county has been looking at ways to create its own department since Newark City Council members said this year that the city can no longer afford to keep providing residential and commercial inspections and issuing building permits for most of Licking County. The department began to drain city coffers last year when the economic slowdown pushed costs, including salaries, over revenue generated from fees and inspections. On Monday, the city’s service committee forwarded an ordinance to the council that, once passed, would give the rest of the county 90 days’ notice that the city planned to terminate its building-code service contracts. Smith met Wednesday with representatives from local city and village governments and the building industry to gather feedback about using an outside firm for the service. He said the department will have to be self-sufficient, whatever its final makeup. “It’s very difficult, nighon impossible, to justify the funding of a department,” given the county’s current economic forecast, Smith said. The county is committed to rebuilding a local department, he said, once the economy and building activity rebound. Luke Baus, an architect and member of the local Building Industry Association, said the plan did not relieve any of his concerns about the loss of local control, and the specter of having to drive to Columbus to look over building plans one on one with a code official. Baus said he planned to attend a Building Industry Association meeting this week and expected members to express disappointment because “it feels like we are so far away from a local code department.” Commissioners said a lot will depend on the bids they get for the work, and what type of budget they can create for a county office. While most at the meeting agreed that a county department should at least have a three- or four-person staff, commissioners said it was too soon to say whether they could fund such a department.