2006-04-15 / News

Committee Clarifies Fire Inspection Plans

By Karen Gould

Addressing concerns voiced last week by business owners, who thought a new ordinance regarding fire safety inspections would lead to costly building upgrades, the Mackinac Island Ordinance Committee took another look at the proposed regulation April 5. Committee members agreed to make changes to the rental housing inspection and licensing ordinance, will ask city council to adopt an inspection list, and turned the information over to the city attorney, who agreed to make the changes to the ordinance before it is scheduled to be brought back to council for a vote Wednesday, April 12.

The primary reason for the ordinance is to promote life safety and fire prevention, say committee members. It will also keep insurance costs down.

Changes will include a general purpose statement that will explain the overall scope of the inspection and that the inspection will be based on an approved checklist, adopted at the same time the ordinance is adopted, the committee decided. The committee also agreed the inspection will remain open-ended to address violations not specifically listed on the checklist.

Committee Chairman Mike Hart explained that owners of housing units are concerned that the inspection would cover all codes and that the city would require buildings to be brought up to the latest building codes.

Dennis Dombroski, city building inspector, explained that rental units already were inspected for building code compliance during their construction, remodeling, or change of use.

Fire Chief Dennis Bradley reminded everyone that he already is empowered to inspect buildings for fire safety.

"I don't need this ordinance to do that," he said. "That's not what this one's about."

He explained that this ordinance is for rental housing and is just as much for the owner's protection as it is for the protection of the city, visitors, and employees.

"All people are looking for is a little more focus," said Councilman Armin Porter, who attended the meeting.

Police Chief Bill Lenaghan, a former fire marshal, handed out an inspection list similar to one he had used as a fire marshal and committee members agreed the list would be helpful and also could serve as a report of the inspection. They asked City Attorney Tom Evashevski to set up a formal list that inspectors could work with during inspections.

The committee also discussed mailing out the inspection list to businesses a week or two before an inspection takes place to let owners know the scope of the inspection and what areas specifically would be addressed. The inspection form provides additional leeway for inspectors, in case they find unanticipated situations.

Mr. Bradley said he came across a metal bed wrapped in Christmas lights last year, which left the occupant susceptible to electrocution.

The inspection form will provide for fire safety inspection of the exterior, interior, electrical, and heating and cooling system. Exterior inspection would include examining exits for obstruction, protection of utilities, and outside storage. The interior inspection also lists exit obstruction, lighting and existence of exit signs, stairway obstruction, and would include checking for smoke detectors and their locations. Electrical inspection would include looking for open wiring, extension cords, and electrical hazards. For heating and air conditioning, assessable shutoff valves would be considered.

Performing the inspections will be Fire Chief Bradley, Police Chief Lenaghan, and Building Inspector Dennis Dombroski.

Not all inspections may be completed by May 1, this year, the deadline for Island business licenses. The ordinance offers the city the flexibility to issue temporary business licenses until a formal inspection is completed.

The proposed rental housing inspection and licensing ordinance and the new inspection list is scheduled to be reviewed at the next ordinance committee meeting Wednesday, April 12, at 4 p.m. before Council reconsiders the matter at its 5 p.m. meeting. Both meetings will take place on the second floor of Community Hall.

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