NEWTON GROVE — The town leaders were at the crossroads Monday evening with their fire inspection process to protect local businesses, employees and patrons.
During a Monday night meeting, the Newton Grove Board of Commissioners met with Fire Chief Lee Wilson and discussed who will take over the responsibility of making sure buildings in the town are safe. Newton Grove’s department can do it themselves or leave it up to Sampson County, which is proposing to put a fee on fire inspections. Wilson said the county fell behind on inspections and is looking into hiring inspectors to get caught up.
“The town is going to be responsible for collecting the fees and paying them or the town can assume the responsibility,” Wilson said regarding the regulations.
Wilson said officials need to have a decision by the end of January 2016. The changes will take effect July 1, 2016. The local fire department works as a separate entity, therefore Newton Grove must take the lead in the process, according to Wilson.
“We’re incorporated and we’ll help out anyway that we can,” Wilson said. “But it falls on the town and it’s their responsibility.”
The state mandates fire inspections on all businesses, which is on a schedule of one to three years, depending on the type of service. Wilson said the majority of what is in Newton Grove will be on a three-year schedule. There will be some one- and two-year schedules also. During the inspections, fire officials are looking for life safety issues and fire prevention methods.
“A lot of people don’t like fire inspections, but it’s there to help you,” Wilson said while discussing how an inspection may save someone from losing their business. “They go out and look for electrical wires out of place, drop cords being used, exit signs not working or doors being blocked. That’s what fire inspectors do.”
Another issue was the collection process, which allows the inspectors to leave an invoice which must be paid at the town hall. Town Clerk Amanda Turner mentioned how it can be a confusing process if she’s unaware of who received an inspection.
He stressed that the fire department has to make a decision at some point in the near future. Wilson feels that the town should take control, since the process will provide better communication among town officials, instead of working with fire inspectors across the county.
“I don’t think a decision can be made tonight,” he said. “I think a lot of time and research will have to go into it. But I think the decision can be made by January.”
To handle that task, a committee consisting of Wilson, Commissioner Steve Jackson and Commissioner Gary Mac Herring was formed to make a recommendation. Wilson said fire inspectors and Sampson County officials would be willing to meet with the committee.
“I think a lot of thought has to go into it,” he said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.