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
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
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.
[to top of second column]
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
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
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.
[By NILA SMITH]
Local realtors object to adoption of new Lincoln building codes
Part 1 – Dan Bock addresses city council