Archive for Friday, June 4, 2010

Code enforcement

It’s good that city officials try to work out code compliance rather than rushing to court, but some limits to those efforts may be in order.

June 4, 2010

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In hindsight, it seems city officials may not have been strict enough with a local company that was operating without the water and sewer systems required in the city code.

That doesn’t mean the city is responsible for the fatal accident that occurred at MagnaGro in April, but it is a reminder of the role city codes, and their enforcement, play in ensuring safe, sanitary conditions in Lawrence structures.

The city disconnected water and sewer service at MagnaGro’s facility at 600 E. 22nd St. in 2007 when the company was being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency for dumping improper waste into the sewer. It was a reasonable action, especially in light of the subsequent $240,000 EPA fine levied against MagnaGro.

Since that time, city officials had been trying to get MagnaGro back in compliance with city codes concerning sewer and water service. Managers of the company apparently weren’t interested in working with the city and were getting by with a portable toilet and some kind of bottled water service at the site.

City officials were aware of the situation but it wasn’t a high priority because it didn’t pose a health hazard. MagnaGro didn’t attract a lot of attention until April when two workers died after being overcome by fumes in a tank at the plant.

There’s no indication that the lack of water and sewer service to MagnaGro had anything to do with the accident. Nonetheless, it’s only human nature to look back at the situation and wonder whether more vigorous enforcement of the city codes at MagnaGro might have prompted the company to either clean up its act or close down before two men died.

City officials walk a fine line with this type of enforcement. With the ongoing complaint that Lawrence is “unfriendly” to business ringing in their ears, along with the expense of pursuing legal action, it’s understandable that city officials would lean to trying to get voluntary compliance to city codes.

Three years seems like a long time to try to achieve that compliance, especially when there was no positive movement on the part of the company, but city codes offer no guidance on how long the city should work with a company before heading to court and assessing fines. City commissioners should consider adding some guidelines, if not firm deadlines, to the codes to facilitate enforcement.

When companies are willing to openly flout city codes, it may indicate they also are willing to operate outside the law in other ways. Again, the city isn’t to blame for the fatalities that occurred at MagnaGro, but stricter city code enforcement might be a first line of defense to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 12 months ago

High rent,high taxes and flooded markets = unfriendly to new and existing business.

"City officials walk a fine line with this type of enforcement. With the ongoing complaint that Lawrence is “unfriendly” to business ringing in their ears, along with the expense of pursuing legal action, it’s understandable that city officials would lean to trying to get voluntary compliance to city codes."

NONSENSE this should have nothing to do with code enforcement. The city simply failed to follow up. OR if they did NOT follow up simply for that reason seems more like incompetence at all levels.

Is code enforcement left to a laissez faire approach? Was this approach applied to the new homes many people have purchased in Lawrence, Kansas over the last 3 years? New Commercial construction? Hmmmmmmmm

The city will not allow homeowners to live in their own homes without water and sewer. In fact they have been harassing a person trying to get a home together that was moved on to lot. AND would NOT allow this person to sleep in the home without water and sewer.

With the ongoing complaint that Lawrence is “unfriendly” to business is because the Lawrence,Kansas markets are flooded with too much of everything regarding retail,office space and light industrial. PLUS some property owners believe that Lawrence,Kansas is just so cool that business people will pay anything just be here so these folks want HIGH RENT for their properties.

High rent,high taxes and flooded markets = unfriendly to new and existing business.

In fact it would not surprise me that some property owners believe that KU basketball is what every new business person should desire and be willing to pay for it!!!

igby 4 years, 12 months ago

If the companies water and sewer was cut off and they were still operating without means to clean containers then the chemical hazard existed. Just what or how does one mix chemicals in the same container with out clean water to scrub with before you have a chemical hazard.

Just look what that same environ did yesterday, it killed 177 people.

KawHawk 4 years, 12 months ago

Someone tell me how this place gets an occupancy certificate if they don't have water or sewer ??

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