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Talking it out: Lawmakers say public needs to weigh in on residential sprinkler requirements

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A bill requiring extra public hearings before a local government can make law requiring sprinklers as part of a new residential building code is making its way through the Alaska Legislature.

The bill requires municipalities to have three public hearings in a 60- to 180-day period. It also specifies that there must be 30 days public notice before the first hearing.

In a statement, Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, said the bill was an effort to protect the public's interests.

"Alaskan homeowners and builders deserve to have a say in governments hoisting burdensome regulations upon them," Olson said. He is a member of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, which sponsored the bill.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said the city is doing everything it can to involve the public in the process, so the law won't have a big impact on the city's process.

"That's exactly what we're doing anyway," he said.

The city of Kenai has had one work session about the changes, and council members supported having another in the fall when the issue is on the table. The bill would require thee hearings after the ordinance was drafted, so the preliminary work session most likely would not count.

Typically, there are two public hearings on an ordinance before the council votes on it.

Discussion at the city council's March 3 work session touched on the bill, which had not been voted on at that time.

Paul Michelsohn from the Anchorage Home Builders Association said that the bill was considered last year but the legislature ran out of time before passing it. But HB 130 will most likely become law by July 1, he said. Michelsohn, and others who spoke as representatives of home building associations, did not support mandating sprinklers.

At the same meeting, James Baisden, from the Alaska State Fire Chiefs Association, said the bill would make it difficult for cities like Kenai to require sprinklers.

The House passed the bill last week. The state Senate must approve the bill and the governor must sign it before it becomes law.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.



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