Beaufort Fire Department Takes Over Code Enforcement

Aug. 20--Beaufort codes will soon again be enforced by the city's fire department.

City Council decided Tuesday to allow staff to create a joint codes-enforcement and fire marshal position.

Since 2010, code enforcement duties have been handled by Safe-Built, a private contractor. But the recent departure of the company's Beaufort codes enforcement official for a new job prompted council to bring the responsibilities in-house again.

The fire department handled codes enforcement up until 2002, when the full-time code-enforcement officer moved from the fire department to the city planning department. The office was shuffled between departments for several years.

The city has not had a fire marshal since 2010, when Dan Byrne resigned. He and city planner Libby Anderson had been splitting codes enforcement duties.

Fire Chief Sammy Negron said the need for a fire marshal has never gone away.

He said the plan would be would fill the new position with someone already working for the fire department. Negron said several employees are qualified to apply.

If that firefighter is replaced with an entry-level firefighter, it could save the city $15,000 to $20,000, according to city estimates. That money would go back into the codes office to help "cure" violations when needed, city manager Scott Dadson said.

Councilman Mike Sutton said it is important the codes-enforcement officer be diligent, work quickly and take offenders to court when necessary.

"This position cannot be a desk in City Hall waiting for a phone call to come in," he said.

"I wouldn't pursue this if I didn't think it wasn't possible," Negron said in response to Sutton's concerns. "...We get a call? We're going to have the fire marshal or inspector knocking on the door."

Anderson said she intends to remain involved with codes enforcement since keeping on top of violations makes for better looking and operating neighborhoods, and therefore effects planning and development efforts.

"What we try to do is make great neighborhoods, and all these issues are important to doing that," she said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

Copyright 2014 - The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

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