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Hail Storm

Month later, hailstorm still hurts

Roofing permits swamp area building departments


*CORRECTION NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Wheat Ridge had shut down its roofing permit process entirely on some days, which was inaccurate.

Mike Pondell is number 59.

The red number counter above the Wheat Ridge Building Permit Department desk has been stuck at 58 for more than an hour after a credit card machine broke down and brought the line to a halt.

Pondell arrived at Wheat Ridge City Hall to proceed with four hail repair roofing permits at 6:20 a.m. on June 2. He said he had shown up the day before, but had been told to come back the next day after the department declared it couldn’t process any more permits after 9:30 a.m.

“I am a genuinely patient person,” said Pondell, owner of Big Creek Roofing. He explained that part of his patience comes from understanding the scope of the damage done by the May 8 hailstorm that pelted extensive damage across the metro area. His company applied for 27 roofing permits on June 1 alone.

“This is probably the worst they’ve seen since at least 2009,” Pondell said of area cities.

Permit requests overwhelm city

Just behind Wheat Ridge’s city hall on June 2 a roofing crew could be seen, stripping off a damaged roof. A dozen different roofing company signs dotted the lawns of other houses for blocks in all directions, showing the breadth of the hail destruction.

Swamped by the high demand for roofing building permits and inspection requests, Wheat Ridge had close the permitting office in the morning several times in the last few weeks, just to focus on processing permit applications and inspection requests that had already been received.

For two weeks the city stopped allowing contractors to apply for permits online, forcing folks like Pondell to come to the city office in person, because the city could not maintain its 24-hour inspection response times.

Wheat Ridge City Manager Patrick Goff said he can understand the frustration, but the city has a responsibility to maintain the quality and thouroughness of the permitting process for the public’s sake.

Since Memorial Day, city inspectors have averaged 91 roof inspections a day, even while dozens more homeowners and roofing contractors show up daily to pull additional permits to fix work approved by insurance companies.

A veteran building inspector left the city just before the storm hit. Two additional building inspectors were brought in on June 5 to help, and Goff said that seems to have worked. By June 8 the city was able to accept more applications and reopened its online application portal for contractors like Pondell.

In 2009, Wheat Ridge issued about 6,000 roofing permits.

“I’m assuming, based on the volume we’re seeing, that this is going to be more,” Goff said.

According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the May 8 storm is believed to be the most expensive to ever strike the metro area, and will generate more than 150,000 auto insurance claims and 50,000 homeowners’ insurance claims totaling $1.4 billion.

The association estimates the 2009 storm caused $845.5 million in adjusted dollars.

Higher workload across Jeffco

Like Wheat Ridge, the cities of Golden and Lakewood, and Jefferson County as a whole, are experiencing a surge in demand for roofing permits and inspections.

The City of Lakewood conducts its roof permit process online, which has helped residents avoid a long line at city hall, city engineer Anne Heine said.

“We’ve been processing about 100 requests a day, and we expect that to go up,” she said. “We are going to be hiring additional staff to help with the demand.”

The average permit requests are about 10 a day, Heine said, and staff is currently doing about 30 roof inspections a day. Once more permits start going through, she said roof inspections could total more than 100 a day.

“After the storm of 2009, we had about 15,000 permits issued in the ensuing months,” Heinie said.

Scott Greer, chief building officer in Golden, said that since May 1 his department has received 250 roof permit requests, more than a 50 percent increase from the total number of permits the city received in the entire first half of 2016.

“We’re having to do all we can to keep up,” Greer said. The city was considering contracting out for an additional inspector to keep up with the volume, he added.

Jefferson County’s Building Safety Division has reported an 84 percent rise in reroofing permits.

“After experiencing these types of events in the past the Division continues to plan and prepare for storms and disasters of this nature,” said Jeffco’s Chief Building Inspector Jeff Ricklefs. He reports that an experienced staff helped the department handle with influx without a break in service.

Importance of the process

Lillian Duran is number 60.

Retired now, she has lived with her husband near 38th and Kipling since 2002. In the 2009 storm, her roof, gutters and siding took considerable damage. Similar damage happened this time around. Luckily, her husband and nephew happen to be roofers and are ready to do the work — if the number ever changes.

“I don’t remember (the permit process) being quite this hectic in 2009,” Duran said. But, she added, the city had been making an effort to explain what was causing the delays to the waiting folks.

Major work like reroofing has to be permitted by the property’s municipality or county. Wheat Ridge is like most cities, and like Jefferson County, in requiring a midroof and finished roof inspection. A midroof inspection allows the city to ensure the roofing crew has done its work properly before the shingles go on.

The city halted the midroof inspection requirement in the midst of the 2009 recovery, Goff said, but later had some reports of fraudulent and shoddy work.

“So,” he said, “we’re sticking to it this time.”


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