CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Opposition failed to lock down efforts Monday to expand the use of key boxes for emergency responders in Cedar Falls.
In March the City Council approved the first reading for an ordinance adopting new fire codes. However, at the time Councilman Nick Taiber objected to a section that would increase the number of property owners that would be required to have key boxes on site for fire rescue personnel to access buildings in an emergency.
The Evansdale City Council in March voted against requiring such lock boxes over concerns about security and expense.
Cedar Falls already has had an ordinance requiring the lock boxes on commercial properties that have alarms systems, sprinkler systems or for buildings with six or more residential units. That ordinance has been in place since 2002.
The new ordinance would require the boxes be installed on all of those properties, plus buildings with three or more residential units.
Taiber said it's an unfunded mandate, adding expense for property owners who should have a choice in the matter.
"You can justify a lot of this on life protection and property protection, and I agree. But I can't see making this mandatory," Taiber said.
With the lock boxes, property owners place keys to the property in a box accessible only by a master key that is kept by the fire department.
Taiber also questioned whether the city takes on too much responsibility by having a key to all of these businesses.
Fire Chief John Schilling said the most basic model costs about $250. But he said a commercial door can cost $2,000, and the lock box will keep the department from having to break such doors down to investigate an alarm. It also saves the fire department time in responding to calls.
"I hear what you're saying about unfunded mandates, but I'm concerned about safety," Councilman John Runchey said to Taiber.
The council took no vote Monday, but Taiber was the only member to voice his opposition to the new ordinance.
Schilling said the department used the lock box keys about 120 times last year. There are currently 269 buildings in Cedar Falls that have the boxes.
Council member Susan de Buhr saw Taiber's point about making the lockboxes mandatory, but gave the safety issue more weight.
"I think in a perfect world you wouldn't make this mandatory, people would put them in for the safety of their tenants, but they don't do it," de Buhr said.