A lengthy discussion over lock boxes had between Baldwin Borough firefighters and council members has ended up being, well ... "moot," as Councilman Bob Collet called it.
After the two groups debated both sides of the important issue at a borough meeting on July 10—does requiring the boxes improve public safety or violate Fourth Amendment rights?—borough Manager John Barrett revealed on Tuesday night that the council had already authorized the boxes' use in Baldwin years ago.
In 2000, the Baldwin Council passed an ordinance that adopts the International Fire Code, Barrett said after doing some research on the topic between council meetings. And part of that fire code—Chapter 5 to be exact—allows for officials to require that lock boxes be installed at structures "where immediate access is necessary for life-saving or fire-fighting purposes."
A lock box, known popularly as the brand name "KNOX BOX," would allow firefighters and other emergency workers access to keys or remote openings to places that are otherwise locked. The idea behind lock boxes is to allow quick access to fires and other emergency situations while also causing as little damage as possible to private property.
On July 10, local fire officials—Chad Hurka, president of the South Baldwin Volunteer Fire Company; Jim Barbour, assistant chief of the Option Independent Fire Company; Bill Connors, deputy chief of Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1; and Kenneth Guerra, Baldwin's emergency management coordinator—appeared before the Baldwin Council to ask for the council's help in mandating cooperation.
Specifically, Hurka, Barbour, Connors and Guerra were asking council members to require local business owners to comply with a lock box system since off-hours access to locations like office buildings and apartments complexes has been troublesome for them.
Council members initially showed hesitation to forcing business owners' hands, but because an ordinance was already passed over a decade ago, that thinking has changed.
"Because it was passed," Councilman Larry Brown said plainly on Tuesday night, "the fire officials can implement a lock box (system)."
Barrett said that a future public safety meeting between borough officials will determine how Baldwin will formally proceed.
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch throughout Wednesday for more stories from Tuesday night's meeting.
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