COUNTY BEAT: County welcomes new building inspector

RBC |  “I never want to be that guy, I want to be the guy that people see come in, and they come out to greet me as I go to greet them, and that’s when you get away from the us versus them mentality,” said Matt Franks, Rio Blanco County’s new Building Inspector earlier this week in an interview with the HT.

Franks’ decision to apply for the job was motivated by a combination of his upbringing around master craftsmen/tradesmen, 30-plus years of construction and oilfield experience, and good timing. 

In the spring of 2020, Matt and his wife Jessica came to live at Trappers Lake as campground hosts. He says the planned six month trip is how they were first familiarized with the area, and some of the members of the community. “We loved it, that first drive up County Road 8 was…awesome,” said Franks.

As  winter approached, the couple made the decision to stay until spring. “We wanted to see what Rio Blanco County had in store for us, if anything,” said Franks, noting that as he met more people and enjoyed few months of winter activities that were never available in Ohio, he felt like this was the place to be. “You get a sense when you talk to people like, this is it, this is the holy grail, this is where I’ve wanted to be all my life, or, this is where I’ve been all my life and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

Fortunately, Franks’ timing paid off, as the building inspector position opened up at the right time, and by August he had started working. Since then, he said he’s been focused on learning the ins and outs of the job, and the county itself. Franks is no stranger to building inspections, code or safety rules though, having worked in construction and oil and gas production back in Ohio for multiple decades. 

That experience informs his view of regulations and what some see as a conflict between “personal freedom” and safety, or rules, like the over 1,000 pages of building code specifications for the area. “There has to be some sort of a guideline, especially in extreme conditions, which we are in,” said Franks, adding that despite his role, he is not a fan of government overreach. “For me, anytime there is regulation, you have to look at the regulation, is it over-regulated? Is it extreme? When it’s extreme, people start to get the feeling of, it’s an us vs. them mentality,” he said.

The sometimes antagonistic relationship between business and government is something Franks hopes to avoid. That’s why he hopes contractors, homeowners and others see the building department as a resource, not some kind of quasi-police. “I know that I am to be an enforcer of the code. But I don’t want to just be known as such. I also want to be an educator,”  said Franks.

That means taking the time to learn the ins and outs of safe building in the region, getting to know contractors, and keeping the lines of communication as wide open as possible.

Franks emphasized that his department’s doors, phone lines and emails are open for anyone with questions or concerns, and offered some general advice to residents about the usefulness of permits, and understanding the broader process. “When you get these permits and you have these inspections, I’m not saying it takes all the liability, but the liability issue, that’s the reason why we’re doing it. It’s insurance for that person,” he said. “It is about responsibility, and we all play in that circle together. The responsibility and liability that I take in this position is crazy, but that’s what it’s for.”


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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