Council eyes code updates

Fort Dodge officials are thinking about including homeowners among those who have to comply with the rules known as the International Property Maintenance Code.

Homeowners are currently exempt from the code, although the city government can take them to court to force them to clean up their property. City Manager David Fierke said that is a more complicated process.

The possibility of placing owner-occupied single family homes under the jurisdiction of the code was discussed Monday as the elected officials were briefed on proposed changes to building regulations.

Fierke is recommending that the City Council adopt updated versions of the International Building Code, International Residential Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, International Fuel Gas Code, National Electrical Code, International Fire Code and the Property Maintenance Code.

Those documents spell out ways of constructing buildings to make them safe. While the codes are important to the construction industry, members of the general public probably won’t notice anything different if the council approves the updates, according to city inspectors who addressed the council Monday.

The Property Maintenance Code, which addresses things like rubbish and peeling paint, may be the exception.

In the past, council members have considered including homeowners under the code. Mayor Matt Bemrich said the former city attorney, the late Maurice Breen, always advised against doing so. According to Bemrich, Breen argued that people are allowed to do what they want to with their own property as long as it doesn’t endanger others.

Councilmen Jeffrey Halter and Terry Moehnke said some homeowners may not be physically or financially able to properly care for their property. They suggested setting up a way to connect such people with agencies that could help them if homeowners are to be included under the code.

No final decisions were made Monday. The revised codes will be the subject of more council meetings.