Aldermen relax zoning to ease storm rebuilding

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday relaxed zoning regulations to allowmanufactured homes on property while hurricane repair work is doneon homes.

Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey requested the change forproperty owners who need temporary housing from FEMA. He was unsureif the rule change would be needed.

“No one has asked for one of the trailers inside the city,”Galey said.

In general, city zoning laws allow only one main structure on aproperty. Aldermen supported the change with some conditions.

“I don’t have a problem as long as they’re building theirproperty back,” Alderman at large Les Bumgarner said.

Galey said the FEMA trailers could be used for up to 18 months.He said eviction proceedings may have to be pursued if occupants donot want to leave after that time.

In unanimously approving the rule relaxation, aldermen alsodictated that only property owners may live in the trailers whilehome repair work is done. Also, they said the change would be goodfor up to 18 months and there should be evidence of progress aftersix months.

“That set aside would only be good as long as they’rerebuilding,” Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said.

Galey said he would be in contact with Public Works DirectorSteve Moreton so the city will know who has been given FEMAtrailers.

Also Tuesday, new Fire Inspector Andre Spiller requested boardinput regarding updating of the city’s fire codes and ordinances.Board action could potentially impact businesses and what they haveto do to meet codes.

Aldermen were not prepared to act last night. The boardrequested information on building codes and planned to discuss itat a work session in the future.

“We want to have businesses as safe as we possibly can,” saidMayor Bob Massengill, while adding the city did not want to tellbusinesses they have to install sprinkler systems. “They can’tafford that.”

In other Fire Department matters, aldermen approved a policythat new lieutenants be certified pump operators.

Three firefighters, Jeff Ainsworth, Steve Davis and ShaneHannah, who were promoted Tuesday night, have achieved that status,Chief Bob Watts said. Watts said the move to have lieutenants becertified was part of an effort to standardize operations amongstations.

Aldermen did not decide how to handle current lieutenants whoare not certified. There was support among the board for helpingthe officers attain that certification.

Also, Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron asked about efforts tohire a female firefighter. He said it is time for Brookhaven to”step up.”

“We have lady police officers. Why not have lady firefighters?”Cameron asked.

Assistant Fire Chief Fred Smith pointed out a recent attempt toname a female applicant as fire inspector. The board rejected thatrecommendation in favor of Spiller.

Watts discussed the applicant-screening process and questionedwhether a female candidate could pass. He did not say a womancouldn’t pass it but said there had not been one to do so yet.

Watts said he was planning a simulated Candidate PhysicalAbility Test (CPAT) in a couple of weeks. It simulates the actualtest firefighters must pass in order to be able to enter the stateFire Academy.

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson, whose daughter Mary hasapplied to join the Fire Department, asked if passing the simulatedlocal test was a requirement for employment.

Watts said there was no written policy on the simulation butadded it would be hard for him to recommend a candidate who failsthe test. He indicated the expectation is reasonable given the CPATrequirement for entering the academy.

“They’re going to face it up there,” Watts said.

Also Tuesday, aldermen approved general liability insurancecoverage for the city. Agent Mike Smith said the new premium willbe approximately $145,000 for a year, up from the current year’s$130,000.

“This is the first time we’ve had an increase in premium in thelast three years,” Smith said.