LAKE PLACID - The town council discussed the balance of costs to businesses versus fire safety Monday as it considered renewing an agreement with the county for fire inspection services.
In the agenda summary, Town Manager Phil Williams stated that Highlands County Fire Inspection is concerned that there is no enforcement mechanism for establishments that refuse or are neglectful in complying with fire inspections.
"Reportedly, there is one establishment of concern in town," he said.
After additional research by town staff, Williams stated a fire prevention procedure could be adopted that would give the town's code enforcement officer and code enforcement magistrate jurisdiction over the matter.
Currently the county provides fire inspection services at no charge to the Town of Lake Placid.
At Monday's council meeting, Councilman Mike Waldron said the town is waiting for a report from the county listing the establishments that have been inspected.
The town pays the county $20,000 annually for planning and zoning services, he said, and at some point the town may have to pay something for fire inspections.
Waldron said Florida Statutes state that it is not always practical to apply all minimum safety requirements to existing buildings. Physical limitations may require disproportionate effort or expense with little increase in safety.
The fire official will determine the practical application of fire safety codes to assure a reasonable degree of life safety and safety of property, according to statutes, he said.
Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department Chief Adam Hess said he is looking at improving safety and correcting as many safety issues as possible.
Hess asked the council if it wanted a higher level of service from the county or a contract with a private company.
Councilman Steve Bastardi said the council should do everything in its power to promote business in these challenging times, but things have to be done safely.
Some people may take shortcuts to save money and run extension cords instead of hiring an electrician, he said.
"Someone's inability to conduct themselves safely shouldn't be the public's risk," he said. "So I would hope that within our town limits we would be able to achieve all the things that the county does and hopefully just a little bit more."
New language in the agreement seems to allow the town manager or mayor to initiate a request for a fire inspection, which is a step in the right direction, Bastardi said. It may have additional expense, which is "practical."
Councilwomen Debra Worley said Wednesday that the new agreement, which is being revised, should specify what businesses or circumstances would prompt a fire inspection instead of leaving it "open ended."
"To me you would have to have some criteria to say why a business should be inspected more," she said.
Worley said she trusts the county's fire inspectors and doesn't see a need for any major changes.
"I don't want to see our taxpayers, especially the businesses right now, having to pay extra," she said.
Council previously selected Waldron to oversee the issue, Williams said Wednesday, so he his awaiting direction from Waldron or the council.