Cape notifies contractors about changes to codes

Monday, December 2, 2002

When it comes to making changes in the city's building standards, the Cape Girardeau inspections department isn't speaking in code.

The department sent letters to 683 licensed contractors in attempt to notify the workers who may be affected by the code changes.

The purpose of the letters was to inform contractors of the major changes that will be made and invite them to a public hearing that will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at the city council chambers as part of the council's regular meeting.

Dianna Barnes, the inspections department secretary, spent about 10 days putting together the contractor mailing list, addressing and folding the letters.

"It went to a wide range of people," Barnes said. "It went to all trade licensed persons -- plumbers, mechanical people, engineers, contractors and electricians."

Inspections director Robb McClary said he didn't want anyone to be stunned by the changes which would only affect new construction. He also said he thought the council, which has the authority to make exceptions to the codes, would welcome the input from contractors.

"I wanted to take advantage of the expertise we have here," McClary said. "They will have as much to say and offer to the council as I would. They'll be able to explain how these changes will impact them."

The code changes are being recomended to the council after 12 meetings over the past two years by the Board of Appeals. One of the functions of the board is to review model building codes and make recommendations to the council.

The codes that the city currently use are a combination of model codes from various sources, including the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA), the Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

The changes that are being made locally coincide with a restructuring of the International Code Council, an umbrella group that has restructured and eliminated the redundancies and inconsistencies of the three groups so the codes will be uniform throughout the country.

The proposed codes, ultimately subject to the city council's approval, are the ICC's new restructured codes.

David Pfeiffer, the chairman of the Board of Appeals, said the board didn't just pull the proposed codes out of a hat.

"The reason the changes took place is because BOCA upgrades their codes every three years, and we try to keep up and most cities in Missouri do the same thing," he said.

Could be opposition

Pfeiffer said he expects to hear some discussion, even opposition, concerning a proposed code that would require bedroom outlets to be protected by arc fault circuit interrupters, which cost approximately $30 apiece. The arc fault circuit interrupters are designed to prevent electrical fires. These are differrent from ground fault circuit interrupters, which are required in kitchens and bathrooms to help prevent electric shocks.

"We do feel the arc circuit interrupters will have a significant impact on the prevention of fires in future residences," said Cape Girardeau interim fire chief Mark Hasheider. "I could go back to a number of fires that were traced back to an extension cord that was frayed or overloaded. An arc interrupter would detect spikes in electricity and shut off the electricity to that circuit just like a circuit breaker would."

D.J. Roth, a building contractor for Roth Construction Inc., said he was unfamiliar with the arc interrupters, but he said he didn't have a problem with the code changes that deal with fire safety.

He said the extra cost wouldn't be a big deal to him. Roth builds three or four houses a year, he said, with the average cost around $260,000.

"So you've got maybe another 200 bucks on the house," he said. "That's a pretty small amount on a house, I think, but you'll have some who will oppose anything that costs more money. Change comes hard for some."

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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