OKANOGAN - Okanogan County has entered an interlocal agreement with four of its cities for building inspection and plan review services in the wake of the cities’ building official being burned severely in a wildfire.
Building official Christian Johnson, assistant chief with the Okanogan Fire Department, was injured Sept. 1 in the Spring Coulee Fire southwest of Okanogan. He is recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Johnson serves as building official for Okanogan, Tonasket and Oroville, and was scheduled to be interim building official for Omak from Sept. 3-9 after that city’s building official, Jake Dalton, retired. The new building official, Tyler Wells, began work Sept. 9.
Commissioners and city councils from Okanogan, Omak and Oroville approved the agreement Sept. 3. Tonasket’s council signed on Sept. 4.
The agreement allows the county to provide building inspection and plan review services, including initial plan review, site inspections, pre-application consultations, permit issuance, coordination with city departments, code review assistance and other duties required by a municipal building inspector under the state building code.
Code enforcement is not included.
The agreement took effect immediately upon approval by the county and respective cities, and recording with the county auditor. It will continue until Dec. 31 unless terminated sooner.
Either party - a city or the county - can terminate the agreement by providing 30 days’ advance written notice to the other, by mutual agreement, in case of breach of terms upon 20 days’ written notice, or by a city hiring its own building inspector.
The county is charging $120 per hour, with a one-hour minimum charge for each inspection and plan review, plus driving time at a 50 percent rate.
Under the agreement, the county will provide liability or errors and omissions insurance for building inspection services and vehicle insurance, and will name the respective cities as additional insureds.
Records pertaining to implementation of the agreement will be maintained by the county, and all records, books, documents and other materials will be property of the respective cities and will be returned to the cities at the end of the agreement, according to the pact.
“This is Plan B,” said Okanogan Mayor Jon Culp during that city’s Sept. 3 council meeting.
While Johnson is focusing on recovery, “we need someone to perform that function” of building official, Culp said, adding that he expects Johnson to be off the job for at least six months. “The building code is huge.”
The agreement was hammered out Sept. 3 and quickly approved, said Culp.
“The county has agreed to provide inspection and plan review service,” said Omak City Administrator Todd McDaniel on Sept. 3, before Wells joined the city staff. “The other ‘as assigned’ duties will be picked up by other staff. I have made a few calls to other jurisdictions and private businesses that can help us if needed.”
The agreement “allows us to access the county building department,” Okanogan’s Culp said. “We probably will winnow back the building function.”
Code enforcement likely will fall by the wayside and contract planner Chris Johnson will pick up some of Christian Johnson’s duties, Culp said. Some duties may be picked up by other city staff “and some may have to wait.”
“Our thoughts are for Christian,” said Councilwoman Denise Varner, whose husband, Scott Duncan, is retired from the Okanogan Fire Department.
“Christian has a lot of support,” said Culp. “He’s a stubborn guy. He’s bullheaded and strong, and will pull through.”
He said Christian Johnson’s wife, Pam, is with him in Seattle and has access to an apartment through the Washington State Fire Fighters’ Association. A representative from the group met her in Seattle after her husband was airlifted there.
Culp also praised Harborview’s services.
“It’s the best hospital in the region for that type of injury,” he said.