Township Officials Pull Back From Unilateral Fire Code Reforms; Now Working With Fire Chief
Both fire department representatives and Saugatuck Township officials held back their commentary regarding the township’s controversial proposal to “unilaterally” rewrite the International Fire Code (IFC) as well as the township’s cost recovery ordinance proposal, saying the township and the Saugatuck Township Fire District (STFD) board will continue holding discussions and try to sort out differences.
Certain township officials claim they don’t want to overburden builders and developers with unnecessary bureaucracy; fire safety standards can be easily addressed via private road regulation at the township level, they contend.
Fire department personnel have strong misgivings about that and have publicly raised grave concerns claiming that changes to the IFC, a document “written in blood,” would severely compromise the efficiency and safety for residents as well as firefighters.
Moreover, fire personnel are severely critical of what they deem a “unilateral” move on the part of the township, contending officials should have first discussed the proposed IFC modifications with them as well as the STFD board.
Still, the township has all the legal right to amend or even completely do away with the fire codes. However, Saugatuck and Douglas cities’ officials have also voiced concerns about the possible changes.
For example, Saugatuck officials have said changes to the IFC, even if just within the township jurisdiction, has the potential to negatively impact the home insurance rates (via the Insurance Service Office ratings) for Saugatuck city taxpayers if the changes signify a diminishing of community risk reduction.
“I have sent the township modified IFC codes and addressed every concern they have. We are still reviewing and commenting on their proposed cost recovery ordinance and intend to discuss it in depth at our next fire board meeting in July (17),” Saugatuck Township District Chief Greg Janik said Tuesday.
Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator and Planner Steve Kushion also spoke with the Local Observer Tuesday, saying he is optimistic about working with Janik.
“We are trying to work with Chief Janik in an amicable way, a kind of meeting in the middle, so that all of the department’s fire safety issues are addressed and the township’s people (particularly builders and developers) don’t feel overwhelmed with regulations,” said Kushion.