Friday, June 27, 2014
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Local realtors object to adoption of new city building codes
Part 2 – Aldermen weigh in on Bock’s comments and Neil Malone addresses the council

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[June 27, 2014]  LINCOLN - This week prior to the workshop session, aldermen adjourned for a special voting session. One of their objectives was to vote on a new set of building codes for the city of Lincoln.

The issue of the building codes became a source of controversy as Dan Bock of Bock and Associates took the speaker’s chair and offered a number of objections to the new codes.

After Bock had spoken, the city of Lincoln Building and Safety Officer John Lebegue addressed each of Bock’s concerns. When Lebegue finished, members of the city council also had questions and comments for both Bock and Lebegue.

On the topic of knob and tube wiring

Melody Anderson brought this topic up asking what the existing city code says about knob and tube wiring.

Lebegue said that by today’s code, if knob and tube wiring is found in a home it is still required to be replaced.

Bock asked who was required to advise building and safety of the knob and tube wiring.

Mayor Keith Snyder said this would happen during an inspection.

Bock then said, “So if (the home) is not inspected, and they go ahead and get work done, it is at their own risk.”

Snyder said that if work was being done without inspection, the contractor is breaking the law.

Anderson said, typically then, when a permit is issued that spurs the inspection.

Lebegue said that was correct, the inspection is then required.

Michelle Bauer said she had spoken with electricians in the community and had been told that they will not repair or work on knob and tube wiring, they are required to re-wire according to their license. She said she felt like that issue was going to be solved through the electrician who, if he is reputable, will refuse to ignore knob and tube.

Bock then asked if he as a realtor was required to report to the building and safety office a home he knows has knob and tube wiring?

Snyder and Lebegue both said that the realtors are not obligated to report knob and tube wiring that may exist in their listings.

Neil Malone addresses sprinkler issue

The next person to address the council was Neil Malone. Malone is the local governmental affairs director for the Illinois Association of Realtors. He began by saying that the role of the association is to be a defender of private property owner rights.

He said the sprinkler issue is not a new problem in Illinois, and it is not exclusive to Lincoln. All around the state these building codes are being addressed.

Malone blamed this issue on the Fire Sprinkler Contractors Association. He said that the association set out to require sprinkler systems in commercial properties, but when they began their lobbying they said they would never ask that similar requirements be mandated for single family homes.

However, he said they changed their tune later. He read a quote from the Sprinkler Association which said, “If we invest resources in the residential division we will get a better return. We have all worked hard to create this market now we want to keep it.”

Malone said his association was continuing to fight against a mandate for sprinkler systems in homes. He said the association had done polling around the state asking if the sprinkler systems should be mandated or should they be offered as an option in new construction. He said on the average the responses were that the sprinkler systems should not be mandated.

He said the cost of new construction goes up considerably with a mandate for sprinklers because they have to be installed by a contractor with a fire sprinkler license.

Malone said that because new construction homes are in fact new and safer, the requirement makes no sense. He said there are statistically fewer fire deaths in new homes than in older structures.

Malone cited that in almost all of the surrounding communities, city officials had said no to mandated sprinkler systems. He said the city of Peoria had done their code a little differently in that they mandated that home builders offer the systems as an option.

Snyder and aldermen pose questions to Malone

Snyder asked Malone if his association has done any research on property tax assessments on new construction homes. He said he was wondering how much of an impact property taxes have on the purchase of newly constructed homes. Malone said that he didn’t have any specific information where the association had researched that. He added that if the city liked, he would look into this for them.

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Snyder said he was just wondering; which is the greater deterrent to new home ownership, a mandated sprinkler over a furnace, or where the property taxes were significantly different.

Malone said he didn’t have an answer to that question.

Tom O’Donohue said it seemed to him that the association should be concerned about property taxes, yet it is something the city hasn’t heard anything about. He wondered, if the association is not looking at all the factors that deter home ownership, how can they say that the sprinkler system requirement does deter homeownership.

Michelle Bauer commented had done her own research and had been told by professionals that what the city is seeking to require does not involve a full house system. She noted she had been told it would be one sprinkler head at a cost of $15 to $20 with a shut off value.

Malone said to the best of his knowledge that was incorrect. He told Bauer, “There is more to this than you have been lead to believe.”

Fire Chief Mark Miller said he had researched the specific codes for fire sprinkler systems and the Fire Sprinkler System Act. He said in those documents it specifically states that the definition of a sprinkler system does not include a single sprinkler head looped into a potable water system.

Miller said he called sprinkler contractors who told him that a licensed plumber could install a single head in-line with the rest of the water in the home and that a single sprinkler did not constitute a system.

Malone read the code section 903-03.7. In that reading, he relayed that the section says there shall be a separation of domestic water service from the fire water service at the entry into the building.

Miller responded, "For a system, if you want to fully sprinkle a home, I would agree with you 100 percent. If you're going to put a sprinkler in every room, more than four heads in that home, you would definitely need a larger and a separate fire line. We are asking for one (sprinkler head)."

Miller added a comment in response to Malone’s earlier observation that the systems being required in new homes are already safer. He said that, yes, new homes are safer, but new homes do get old. He said a 10-year old furnace that has not been properly maintained could be a serious hazard. He added that in Lincoln his department has responded to 90 furnace related calls (he did not specify in what time-period), but in those cases the problem was caught before anything serious happened.

Marty Neitzel spoke up saying that she had tried to go through the documents provided by Lebegue and ended up totally confused. She said she wasn’t prepared to support something she didn’t understand. Her suggestion was that the motion to approve be tabled until the council has been guided through these new codes and changes by Lebegue. She read one note in particular from Lebegue’s amended code and said she had no idea what meant.

Kathy Horn agreed, saying most of what she read was clear as mud.

Anderson suggested the city look at the document as it is, lay that beside the amendments and take a good look at what they are changing. She said there was a “disconnect” between being able to look at the revised document and the document as it now stands and seeing what the changes are. She felt that might help everyone understand the implications for homeowners and contractors. She also suggested that as the council does this, they do so as a “Reader’s Digest” version.

Bauer also agreed that it would be good to look at the entire request more carefully.

In the end, Anderson made a motion to lay the adoption of the new building code on the table. It was seconded by Neitzel.

Snyder then said the next date to dig into this would be July 15th. He suggested the council look at what they have been given and come prepared with their questions.


Local realtors object to adoption of new Lincoln building codes
Part 1 – Dan Bock addresses city council

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