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Friday, Sep. 21, 2012

Olathe building codes could get update

Special to The Olathe News

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Building codes in Olathe might be getting a facelift.

For the past several months, city staff has been part of a collaborative Kansas City area attempt to study, review and prepare several recommended amendments to the 2012 international building code series.

Now the staff is hoping the city council will approve the changes.

Fire Chief Jeff DeGraffenreid told the council at its meeting Tuesday night that the amendments are meant to make Olathe homes safer, meet federal and state obligations, incorporate the latest technological advances and industry standards, be more energy efficient and encourage development.

He said he hopes the council will talk to residents and builders about any concerns they might have, so staff can make any necessary changes before the amendments come up for council vote next month.

Currently, the city is abiding by its 2000 edition of the building codes, which has caused some challenges, DeGraffenreid said.

The 2000 code books are no longer published and referenced standards for materials and installation guidelines are 12 years out of date, he pointed out.

He also added that the current codes don’t address technological advancements, such as carbon monoxide detectors, and there are no adopted energy efficiency standards, which places Olathe homes at a competitive disadvantage in the new and resale markets.

He also thinks surrounding cities with more advanced codes are creating transition problems for local contractors who want to build or do remodel work in Olathe.

Overland Park and Kansas City have already adopted the 2012 international codes with similar amendments.

“The whole community is moving forward at the same time, which is really important,” DeGraffenreid told the council.

Marge Vogt was one of the council members who felt the amendments were necessary.

“Times have changed,” she said. “This is about quality of life in our community and making sure we’re out in the forefront.”

Councilmen John Bacon and Jim Terrones, however, felt uncomfortable voting on amendments without knowing exactly what they were.

A detailed list of each specific change was not provided for the council members because of the massive size, DeGraffenreid said. He joked that it could be the size of the phone book.

But Bacon and Terrones didn’t care.

“I want to see a comparison between what we already have in the books and what is being proposed,” Bacon told DeGraffenreid. “I don’t care how big it is, I just want a comprehensive list of the changes, at least. It’s scary to adopt something blindly.”

The City Council plans to vote on the amendments in October. If they are approved, the city will hold education sessions with local contractors in November and December, with the codes going into effect. Jan. 1.

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