Rolling through in another's seat

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Lewisburg Codes Officer Greg Lowe, seated, deals with doors in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex while, at left, Fire Inspector Bob Davis, and, at right, County Codes Inspector Don Nelson observe his progress during a test while using a wheelchair that Lowe doesn't need -- other than to get a feel of what it's like.

The center front door of Marshall County's Courthouse Annex is to be changed so during emergencies, someone who's panicked - and doesn't know about the stairwell's fire door - will be able to escape the lobby.

"Panic hardware is to be installed at the ground floor doors of the Courthouse Annex," County Building Codes Inspector Don Nelson said during a routine meeting he has with a few other county and Lewisburg officials charged with public safety responsibilities.

The expense is nominal compared to the county's multi-million dollar budget, and a directive to proceed with the installation was issued administratively, but it's not the only change that may come to the public building.

"I got approval from the county mayor (Joe Boyd Liggett) and the chairman of the Building Committee (Commissioner Mickey King) to go ahead and get Sheldon Davis (the director of school maintenance, the office overseeing all county buildings now) to install the panic bar doors," Nelson said.

At least one door at the back entrance lobby will be fitted soon with the hardware that every public school student has used for years.

Meanwhile, one of the Annex's second floor conference rooms is without emergency lighting and that may be changed someday, just as the main meeting room, where county commission meetings are held, had emergency lights installed a few years ago.

"When the main conference room didn't, there was a power failure that convinced officials that emergency lights were needed," Nelson said.

The small conference room without emergency lights is where the County Budget Committee meets for hours on end every spring and summer to get a spending plan to meet revenues.

Nelson met with Lewisburg Fire Inspector Bob Davis, City Codes Officer Greg Lowe, and Mike Wiles, executive Director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board on Friday last week.

The four men meet periodically to share information so they can do a better job. Sometimes, it's as simple as reporting on a new business moving to town. Other times, it might be as interesting as a new business that's been open without an inspection.

"They get upset because they have to tear something out that they've just put in," Wiles said of some businessmen and women who react to codes issues that are presented when they open for customers.

Lowe said the city's Community Development Board wants a new packet of information, including contacts for new residents and businesses. It's to explain codes issues. The four men who meet with new businessmen and women are gathering information so the people they work with can be well informed, as directed by the CDB.

"Sometimes," Wiles said, "businesses come in and start work as soon as they get a business license.

"Work before a building inspection is conducted at the peril of the business," he said.

The creation of a new community development packet ought to help prevent problems, the four men agreed.

"Then we don't have to go through this (being) mad," Wiles said.

Nelson said it ought to help all sizes of businesses, but especially the sole proprietor.

"Corporations meet with the inspectors and sometimes the county mayor" when their companies' leaders decide to build new structures, Nelson said.

"It's the blessing," Wiles said, "of being a small community."

Lowe agreed, adding, "Codes and codes enforcement is not the enemy of economic development and growth."

After having watched several news broadcasts about the earthquake in Haiti, he felt as though reasons for building codes had been made for him when one official on the island nation said, " 'Of course our buildings fell down... We don't have codes.'"