Cedar Falls City Council backs lock box rule despite resistance

2011-05-25T06:00:00Z 2011-06-13T20:20:18Z Cedar Falls City Council backs lock box rule despite resistanceBy JON ERICSON, jonathan.ericson@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

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.

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(3) Comments

  1. alex319
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    alex319 - June 22, 2011 1:32 pm
    Depite reisistance, the key words above. We are the resisitance. I say, do not turn them keys in whatever you do our liberties are being stripped one by one. Poeple better wake up to whats happening nation wide. You have TSA at airports soon to be at railroads and malls in one case at a high school prom in mich. if I remember correctly. Free speech is going down the drain. To me this looks like the begining of the end. As the dollar plunges in value I assure you we will see more of this in the manufacturing of economic Marshal Law...Good Luck and God Bless..
  2. Jonica
    Report Abuse
    Jonica - May 26, 2011 12:06 am
    This has very serious implications and the fire department does not seem to be giving very straightforward answers. If you check out other places that use these key boxes on residences, they are for the keys to to common areas, the sprinkler system controls and for rooms where alarms are. That seems to make some sense. They are not used for the entrances to private homes. That is where the Cedar Falls ordinance is different. How comfortable would you feel with the key to your home placed on the outside of the building? If you check out the Knox box company, they suggest that if these boxes are used for entry because of medical reasons, they are most often placed there voluntarily. The argument for safety is often used, but no research information is provided. On the web site it will state that fire chiefs say that they make the city safer, but do not offer any hard evidence to back up that claim.
    My question would be: What is the big problem we are trying to solve and have the present Knox boxes solved that problem. Please use numbers.
  3. bbjohnson
    Report Abuse
    bbjohnson - May 25, 2011 1:38 pm
    Taiber may be right in this case.

    Make the use of fire department key boxes voluntary.

    Every employer has rouge employees and if a rouge fire department supervisor stole, lost or made a copy of a key they'd have access to every businees in town. It could happen!

    This is a huge liability for the city and could cost millions in liability claims before anyone could catch the criminal.

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