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Newton Daily News: Local Entrepreneurs Call for Streamlined Inspections Program


Sep 6, 2023

The council held a workshop last month to discuss an alternative commercial inspections program. This workshop provided city staff with a foundation to revise the code. However, business owners from Newton who attended the meeting are cautious about what the new program will entail and if it will be easy to follow. In contrast to previous workshops, the mayor allowed commercial property owners to provide input to council members. Many owners expressed their concerns about redundant inspections and the unfair costs associated with them compared to the overhead costs of running a business and insuring it.

One business owner, Scott Farver, pointed out that insurance companies already hire contracted inspectors to visit properties, including his own. He emphasized the need to consider the costs to business owners if the council insists on using contracted inspectors for the commercial inspection program. Farver also highlighted that the fire marshal should understand each space to be prepared in case of a fire.

Dana VanGilder, another business owner, emphasized that inspections should prioritize safety and fire hazards. She mentioned the high costs that business owners already have to pay for inspections by entities outside the city. VanGilder also complained about compliance issues with old buildings and argued that it is unreasonable to expect property owners to fix certain issues.

Julia Prendergast, another local business owner, mentioned that many business owners agree on the importance of fire and safety inspections. However, she noted that the increasing insurance premiums, taxes, fees, and regulations make it difficult to do business in Newton. She stressed the need to find a code that local businesses can approve of to alleviate some of these challenges.

Bob Williams echoed the sentiment that government involvement in business complicates matters. He agreed with the council on having annual inspections for specific establishments but suggested having the fire marshal lead the program instead of contracted inspectors.

Barney Bushore also advocated for the fire marshal to be in charge of inspections, but he expressed concerns about the enforcement of annual inspections for properties above a certain size. He believed that decision should be left up to the fire marshal, considering other factors.

During the workshop, the council took note of the input provided by business owners. They agreed on excluding vacant buildings from the commercial inspection program and acknowledged that yearly inspections for all businesses may be overwhelming for one person. The council also considered the challenges posed by excessively large structures and discussed the possibility of involving a certified building official for certain inspections if necessary.

No specific action was taken during the workshop, but the input received from both council members and property owners served as a starting point to introduce the new program at a later meeting. However, as the discussion delved into the details of the code, the business owners became more restless and agitated, expressing a desire for the program to be simple and not overly burdensome.

By Editor

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