CEDAR FALLS --- New opposition Monday to an expanded lock box ordinance failed to sway the Cedar Falls City Council.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of adopting an ordinance that would require keyed lock boxes for apartment buildings with three or more units. It comes as part of the 2009 International Fire Code and was the second of three required readings on the ordinance.
Back in 2004 the city adopted an ordinance that required the boxes for commercial buildings and apartment buildings with six or more units. The lock boxes are located on the outside of a building, and keys to gain entry are located inside the safe-like box. The fire department keeps a master key and can use it to gain entry when an alarm goes off or during a fire.
The ordinance saw little resistance when it was first adopted in 2004 and had only Councilman Nick Taiber argue against the update when the first reading passed two weeks ago.
But on Monday, Taiber was joined by five citizens who protested the lock box provisions, saying it was an expense government was forcing on property owners and an invasion of privacy.
Kyle Baker cited quotes from Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in questioning whether ease of access should be worth the loss of freedom for property owners.
Greg Saul, whose PIPAC Centre on the Lake has a lock box, said his building is insured to cover an incident where the fire department would have to force entry. He doesn't see the need for lock boxes.
"I'd just as soon it not happen," he said.
Resident Carol Hanson wanted to know if the city had thought out potential for abuses of the system.
"Who will be liable? What if the key is stolen? What happens if someone is murdered or raped?" asked Carol Hanson.
Fire Chief John Schilling said at an earlier hearing that he has seen no evidence of such lock boxes being abused. In Cedar Falls, seven supervisors in the fire department would have access to the key. He also believes such ordinances have passed muster legally.
"There are thousands of cities around the country that have lock box ordinances," Schilling said.
Councilman David Wieland tried to temper concerns about requiring lock boxes for houses.
"This in no way is intended for private homes. If it were I would vote against it and I'd be the first to sue on constitutionality," Wieland said.
The City Council will have to pass a third reading of the ordinance before it becomes law. That reading likely will come at the June 13 City Council meeting.