More than 100 people swarmed into the Mineral County office building on Nov. 6, hoping to voice their opinion on Bill 249 at a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
The meeting was so crowded the board decided to table the issue until Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m., when it will meet again to discuss the proposed change in the convention center in Hawthorne.
The issue is so hotly contested that even the contents of the bill are being debated. Some, like Sean Rowe, Mineral County District Attorney, say the bill will alter how Mineral County adopts new building and fire codes.
County officials argue that the bill is only a minor wording change in the way new codes are adopted, and allow the county to only adopt the portions of the code that are necessary in Mineral County.
“What we’re proposing to do is to give us some flexibility to not necessarily adopt the codes in lock step with the state and make sure that this board adopts those codes which are relevant for Mineral County, and do it by reference,” Rowe said.
The bill hopes to change section 15.04 of the Mineral County Code. Currently, the code reads: “The list of adopted codes as set out in Nevada Administrative Code 477.281, as amended, all of which are placed on file in the office of the Mineral County Clerk, are adopted by reference and incorporated herein.”
If the proposal is passed, that section of the Mineral County Code will be amended to include the phrase “and those building and/or design codes adopted by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners”.
If the bill is passed, the board hopes to adopt portions of the 2009 fire and building codes, T.C. Knight, fire chief, said in an interview last week.
Others, like Glen Inlow of Mina, who circulated a petition calling for the repeal of international building codes in Mineral County and who seems to be leading the charge against the bill, say it will institute new laws.
The meeting lasted only a few minutes, but during that time the difficulty both sides will have communicating was apparent.
Inlow and his wife Jean, the only opponents who spoke during the meeting, appear to be using the proposal as an opportunity to attack international building codes and certain parts of other building codes they find offensive.
To help spread their message, they started a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MineralCountyObserver; and the website, http://childofyhvh7.wix.com/mineral-cty-observer.
Almost all the content on the Facebook page and the website is devoted to opposition international codes, which the site calls global governance, both explaining why the codes are not appropriate for Mineral County; and questioning whether the international codes were ever legally adopted by the county in the first place.
The resolution adopting the international codes was passed in 1991, and adopts whatever codes are approved by the state government. The state adopted its first code several years ago, and has amended it periodically, including to update to more recent international codes.
The most recent amendment was in 2011 when the legislature passed a 100-page bill which made a broad range of tweaks to the law, ranging from setting a definition and standards for fire hydrants, to limiting the power of magicians.
Some readings of the 1991 Mineral County ordinance suggest that the key phrase, “as amended” means as NAC 477.281 is updated, the Mineral County codes are also updated.
But Inlow said he’s not so sure, and is seeking legal advice on the matter.
Regardless of the legality of the currently enforced code, Inlow said he’s opposed to implementing international building codes in Mineral County.
“Any county that gets very populated [the government] start telling people everything about their lives, what they can or cannot do,” Inlow said.
“The majority of anybody that lives out here, lives out here because they want the freedom way from all that.”
Inlow’s most shocking — and closely scrutinized — complaint with the code is that it essentially allows fire officials to enter any home for an inspection any time they choose.
Inlow argued that states and counties are using a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Camara V. San Francisco Municipal Court.
In Carmara V. Municipal Court, a case in which a San Francisco apartment building was shielded from prosecution after he was arrested for refusing to allow a fire marshal to inspect his building, the court found inspectors have probable cause to seek a warrant if there is “reasonable legislative or administrative” reasons to seek a warrant, Justice Byron White wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
The court also found the reasons “will vary with the municipal program being enforced, may be based upon the passage of time, the nature of the building (e.g., a multi-family apartment house), or the condition of the entire area, but they will not necessarily depend upon specific knowledge of the condition of the particular dwelling.”
Inlow said the international fire code gives legislative reason to enter a building, which a court can use as probable cause to issue a warrant.
“That is not [valid] probable cause,” he said. “I don’t care how you say it, and if it’s going to be lawfully used as that, they need to get rid of that law, period. So we don’t have to worry about it.”
But the White also took up that issue.
“But we do not agree,” White wrote. “The warrant procedure is designed to guarantee that a decision to search private property is justified by a reasonable governmental interest. But reasonableness is still the ultimate standard. If a valid public interest justifies the intrusion contemplated, then there is probable cause to issue a suitably restricted search warrant.”