Paris City Hall

Paris City Hall

Paris City Council has eliminated a requirement that all buildings larger than 6,000 square feet have a sprinkler system.

Code officials now have more leeway in interpreting the city’s building and fire codes, which, in the past, have hindered construction.

Councilors adopted amendments to international building, fire, plumbing and electrical codes to make codes more appropriate for Paris as a result of citizen input at several Lamar County Chamber of Commerce educational forums a year ago.

With the assistance of outside consultant Mark Lacey, a seven-member committee composed of an architect, structural engineer, fire suppression engineer, master electrician, master plumber, builder and developer reviewed codes and came up with proposed amendments, which Lacey and City Engineer Carla Easton presented to City Council at a Monday meeting.

Those amendments include:

The creation of a Board of Appeals for contractors to appeal code interpretation by building and fire code officials.

Elimination of the requirement that all buildings over 6,000 square feet have fire sprinklers; rather base square footage based on construction type and use, typically 12,000 square feet.

Elimination of the local amendment that prohibits separation by fire walls to eliminate fire sprinkler system requirement. The code will allow a firewall to constitute a separate building.

Elimination of the required verification by a notary of termite treatment of residences.

Lacey explained a former amendment requiring that all buildings over 6,000 square feet have sprinkler systems is based on the fire department response time abilities recommended by the state.

“You are meeting the residential side of that equation. You are not meeting the commercial side,” Lacey said. “A sprinkler system’s job is not to put the fire out, but it’s job is to hold the fire in check until your fire department can get there.”

Lacey recommended that the council remove the “all” buildings over 6,000 square feet requirement and go with basic international code requirements based on type of construction, occupancy load and other factors, such as the type of materials stored in a building. The change would give some time until fire department staffing and equipment meet state recommendations for response times. At some point, however, Lacey warned that the city ISO rating might change, causing insurance rates to increase.

Mayor Steve Clifford asked for clarification on the role of the Board of Appeals, specifically if the board could overrule code officials.

“They would have the authority to waive any of the requirements so that in a very specific instance,” Clifford said. “(The code) doesn’t make sense, and if it’s hampering someone’s ability to build something, the board would have the authority then to waive it?”

Lacey did not answer the mayor’s question directly but said the role of the board is to say, “did the building official or did the fire marshal interpret that section of the code correctly and apply it correctly.”

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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