In a special session in the Hawthorne Convention Center, the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance on Dec. 10 that will change how the county adopts new building codes.
Until Tuesday the county adopted whatever code the State adopted — a process called adoption by reference. The new ordinance allows the board to adopt whatever codes it sees fit for residential buildings by resolution.
Resolutions must be made in public meetings and will appear on the board’s agendas.
By Nevada state law public buildings, including businesses, are under the jurisdiction of the State Fire Marshal.
The ordinance change did not add, subtract, or change any existing codes, which have been adopted by the board piecemeal since 1977.
Sean Rowe, Mineral County District Attorney, said the board adopted its codes more or less “randomly” over the years by the order of the board.
“Part of the problem that this causes is a lack of transparency, and a difficulty for anybody wanting to do business in Mineral County,” Rowe said. “Anybody wanting to take part in the construction trades or wants to ask what kinds of codes are required of them.”
Because Mineral County adopts codes by reference, if the ordinance had not passed Mineral County would have updated the codes it’s enforcing to the 2012 International Building Code when the state updates it’s code. T.C. Knight, Mineral County Fire Chief, said he expects that change in the coming months.
The problem with the 2012 codes is jurisdictional, Knight said. Other Nevada counties that adopted the codes have voluminous amendments, and Knight said he thought it was appropriate to take the time to review and amend the code.
Rowe said Mike Fontaine, Mineral County Building Official, approached Rowe and asked for an ordinance giving the board more leeway on the codes to be enforced.
“There are some things in that [2012 International] code that quite honestly I wasn’t comfortable with and, quite honestly, I didn’t think was in the best interest of Mineral County,” Knight said. “And I think that the building official felt the same.
“I observed that there were some issues that I felt should not be burdened onto Mineral County with people constructing houses or new business coming in,” Fontaine said.
The board first considered the ordinance in October, and was initially set for a vote in mid November.
But a petition started by Glen Inlow of Mina drew public attention to the proposal.
Dozens of people swarmed into the commissioners’ meeting room, filling the room and much of the hallway outside.
Public interest remained strong, and the convention center was packed with more than 100 rambunctious people who came to watch the meeting and offer comment.
About a dozen people spoke at the meeting.
Many railed against building codes in general, or provisions of existing or proposed codes, without mentioning the proposed ordinance.
Knight said in an interview several weeks ago, and again at least twice during the meeting, if the ordinance was adopted he hoped the board would adopt portions of the 2009 International fire and building codes. While the ordinance potentially opened the door for that adopting, it did adopt the codes.
Others feel the ordinance is a power play, intended to restrict the rights of Mineral County citizens.
“You’ve already got the right to amend whatever codes you’d like,” Inlow said to the board. “[…] What you’re proposing right here is to be able to adopt anything above what the state chooses to adopt.
“The whole thing depends on whether you want to live under socialism or freedom,” Inlow added before leaving the microphone, a comment that drew several seconds of applause from the gathered throng.
Attendees were initially expected to speak for no more than three minutes, but nearly all of the speakers exceeded their time limit.
There is also a proposal to alleviate some of the anger over the proposed code changes.
Jerrie Tipton, board chairman, suggested the board form an advisory committee to look over the building codes enforced and proposed for the county, and decide which codes should be adopted, repealed or amended.
“I don’t like the face that previously Mineral County just simply adopts what the state does,” Tipton said. “Because I have seen. I know that in Washoe County and in Humbolt County they have as part of their 2009 building codes that you can’t use used material.
“Well, how many buildings, rooms, additions, in Mineral County were purchased right out here at the base when they tear down the tonnage, and when it comes to town if it’s got too many holes in the end you cut off the end and you use it?” she continued. “See, that’s used material. To me, that’s ridiculous.”
Open meeting law prohibited most discussion on the idea because it wasn’t on the agenda, commissioner Paul MacBeth and vice-chairman Cliff Cichowlaz both said they thought an advisory board would be a good idea.
But that suggestion wasn’t enough to satisfy Inlow.
Unhappy with the commissioners’ conduct at the meeting the Mineral County Observer’s Facebook page, which is run by Glen Inlow and his wife Gene, announced the couple’s intention to force a recall election.
“We must do something about this to stop this reign of tyranny over the lives of the Mineral County Residents and I am heading into town hopefully today or tomorrow to pick up a recall election packet from the Court House that instructs us on how to perform a recall,” the post says. “I will also be studying just what it takes to get a referendum on the ballot to force changes in Mineral County Law.”
Initially the ordinance would have continued to adopt building codes by reference, but an amendment proposed by Rowe at the start of the meeting eliminated that language from the bill.
For more on this story, check next week’s Independent-News.
The Inlows’ facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/MineralCountyObserver.