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More than 65 people heard from Paris Fire Department and Building Code officials Wednesday about the importance of community input in customizing the city’s building codes to fit the needs of business owners.

Local officials were joined by a state fire marshal and several other trade professionals in reviewing code history and the importance of building codes in saving lives and protecting property as part of a “Building A Sustainable Business Community” series sponsored by the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce at an informational session at Love Civic Center.

Mark Lacey, a retired Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex code enforcement official who now works with local code enforcement, served as moderator and inspirational speaker.

“We are all stakeholders in this community,” Lacey said. “So give us some good feedback so we can enhance our code efforts so we can all work together to make our community safer and more viable economically.”

Building codes protect the community in multiple ways, Lacey emphasized, as he talked about the impact a single business loss can have on school and local government tax revenue not to mention tremendous losses to both owners and employees.

Code applied equally within the law with effective communication between code enforcement and business owners and contractors is key, Lacey said, emphasizing the importance of information being readily available for planning purposes. He noted city staff is working on a web page with generic webmail so contractors can ask questions and receive immediate responses.

“They are taking steps, but it is a process,” Lacey said. “We have to learn and grow and work together and it can’t happen over night.”

After the Paris fire chief, fire marshal and code enforcement officials shared about code history in Paris and steps they are taking to improve communication, speakers answered audience questions and listened to

concerns for almost an hour.

Realtor Jim Bell spoke of the need for codes to be more in line with the local economy rather than “one size fits all” international codes, which discourage business owners from investing in Paris.

“If you have a restaurant in Paris, Texas, compared to a restaurant in Dallas, the restaurant in Dallas is making five, six, seven times more money. During the course of my career, I have had several people looking to expand in Paris and have said ‘we can’t afford it’ just because the estimated income doesn’t match what the cost of the development here would be,” he said.

Bell said he didn’t know the solution while adding, “It is a realistic, economic problem for us to meet the codes here with a much lesser gross income; it flat doesn’t work.”

After the meeting, Lacey said the Chamber plans to contact Wednesday’s seminar participants to participate in small group settings with city staff in an effort to work on problem areas and then come back together as a group for another informational seminar.

Paris Mayor Steve Clifford, who attended the meeting along with Mayor Pro Tem Paula Portugal, said he is happy to learn City Council has the authority to amend international building codes.

“This is the first time I am hearing this,” Clifford said. “Hopefully we can get something done.”

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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