Citizen panel gives Knox box rulesThe meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9 has been canceled.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior may not have an ordinance requiring key boxes — commonly referred to as Knox boxes — installed on buildings anymore.
That doesn’t mean the city’s fire chief can’t order them installed on any structure in the city.
Repealing an ordinance adopted in 2005 and revised in 2008 did nothing to take away the authority provided by Wisconsin state fire code, which grants the fire chief the authority to require the boxes to be installed “where access to or within a structure or area is difficult.” By repealing the ordinance in June, the council only took away the guide used by the fire department to determine who is required to install key boxes.
Now a citizen panel is reviewing a new ordinance that would scale back the number of commercial operations required to install the boxes.
“We just haven’t come to a very good resolution,” said Council President Dan Olson. “Our task at this time is to come up with a replacement ordinance, stick to the (original) ordinance — and I know there’s going to be pros and cons — or a resolution that we can all live with.”
Superior Fire Chief Jim Rigstad presented the panel with a draft ordinance that is less broad in scope than the city’s 2005 ordinance or 2008 revision, which excluded multi-family residential units with four or fewer apartments.
Under the proposed ordinance the owner of any building with two or more stories, or one that has an automatic fire suppression system, fire alarm system or elevator would be required to install the boxes. It would also be required when a business is required by state law to file a Tier II report because of hazardous materials.
“This is a starting point,” Rigstad said. “It doesn’t include a lot of the rental properties. I think that we would like to add in here something of properties over a certain number of apartments will be required to have this, but I don’t know exactly where we want to draw that line.”
The idea of an ordinance is just to clarify the requirements, Rigstad said.
Irrespective of having an ordinance, the fire department can require building owners to install the boxes when deemed necessary, said Chief Fire Inspector Arthur Gil de Lamadrid.
“Tomorrow, we could walk down the street and say that building needs one, and that one, and that one, and we would be the one enforcing it,” Gil de Lamadrid said. The city need not have an ordinance because that authority is granted through the state fire code, he said.
“The idea of an ordinance is to standardize it … so it isn’t an arbitrary decision,” Rigstad said.
The panel, which met the first time this week, meets again at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 204 of the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St.