Councilors voice dissent over contract with neighboring city for contract service.

The Wood Village City Council unanimously approved renewing its building inspection agreement with the city of Gresham at its Tuesday, Jan. 22, meeting, but that doesn't mean Wood Village councilors were thrilled with the decision.

Councilors felt their hands were forced because a Feb. 16, 2018, Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion ruled that relying entirely on third parties to conduct a building inspection program violates state law. That decision means that Wood Village can not use private organizations for building inspection services, and must hire a governmental organization instead.

Without the ability to hire private organizations, the city of Gresham was the only viable option — except Portland.

Wood Village Mayor Scott Harden said it was better to continue with Gresham's services than hire Portland.

"We've learned that their response time is slow," Harden said. "We have businesses that have located here simply because of how much more nimble we are than Portland."

Gresham has provided building inspection services to Wood Village, Fairview and Troutdale since 2016. Troutdale and Fairview are expected to sign similar intergovernmental agreements (IGA) with the same price increase at upcoming council meetings.

The new IGA raised Gresham's hourly rate to $115 per hour from $79.95. Wood Village councilors balked at the 31 percent fee increase. And Councilor Patricia Smith voiced frustration about the DOJ's decision.

"We're pretty much over a barrel," she said.

Before private contracting partnerships were ruled illegal, Wood Village was exploring options for hiring a private sector company.

Harden asked what would have been the charge to hire a non-governmental building inspection company.

Wood Village City Manager Bill Peterson responded that none of the private-sector entities would charge more than $100 per hour. Wood Village may revisit the issue in the future because state legislation has been introduced to allow municipalities to resume contract services with non-governmental organizations.

Peterson added that staff members from Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village spent a great deal of time examining what it would take for one of the cities to create its own inspections department.

"We can't come anywhere close financially to what we can do with Gresham," Peterson said. "It's kind of like building your own fire department. You (just) couldn't get there."

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