2012-06-23 / News

Committee Considers Requiring Key Boxes for Commercial, Multi-family Buildings

By Matt Mikus

Commercial properties and multiple family residences on Mackinac Island may be required to purchase a secure key box sold as a Knox-Box Rapid Entry System, which will allow access to a building in case of a fire or police emergency. The Ordinance Committee met Wednesday, June 13, and is considering adding the requirement for larger facilities to help reduce confusion with where access keys are stored, and help reduce damage to properties in emergencies.

A property owner places keys in the box, which is mounted on the outside of a building. A single master key can open all the boxes in a community and is kept at the police and fire department.

Some models also require an identity code and record when the keys were last accessed, who used the keys, and whether they were returned.

Committee member Sam Barnwell proposed that the city require such boxes for larger buildings, plus condominiums, apartments, and employee dormitories. Other building owners could purchase the Knox-Box voluntarily, and some already have, following police promotion of the boxes several years ago.

Police Chief Jim Marks predicts such boxes could reduce damage to a building from forced entry, when an owner or manager can’t produce an entry key. The average cost is around $210, but varies depending on the features and the size of the box.

The committee tabled action to throw out a city requirement for snowmobile licenses until it can determine if doing so could jeopardize enforcement.

The city council decided in January to stop requiring a city permit to operate snowmobiles, and then handed the removal of the ordinance to the Ordinance Committee.

Originally, the city required a license after the Mackinac Island Police Department completed a safety inspection, but stopped offering the inspections so they wouldn’t be liable if a machine broke down. Although the inspections stopped, issuing the licenses continued, Police Chief Jim Marks said.

Committee member Jason St. Onge, who sees no need for a city permit, wondered if it would be better to keep the ordinance on the books, in case the city needs to punish someone who frequently breaks rules on a snowmobile. He also wondered if it would open a loophole that would allow other machines to operate on Mackinac Island.

City attorney Tom Evashevski said that removing the license would not leave a loophole, since they would leave the snowmobile ordinance intact and remove the license requirement, which is part of a different ordinance.

Committee member Anneke Myers said the city shouldn’t keep an ordinance on the books if it does not intend to enforce it. She made the original suggestion to remove the requirement at a city council meeting.

Mrs. Myers also asked whether the city could require more specific site plans when approving a plan for a bicycle rental facility. At a recent planning commission meeting, commissioner could not determine the traffic flow when presented site plans for a rental facility at the Mission. The city was able to see traffic flow at a site plan presented by Mackinac Cycle last winter, however. She suggested the city require traffic flows for all new bicycle rental site plans in the future.

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