Is it economically viable to do so?
Would it be better to let the state handle the handful of required inspections?
Commissioner Carlos Salazar was the first of the commissioners to broach the idea of not filling the fire marshal’s position.
“I know that the state doesn’t require a county to appoint a fire marshal or even have a fire marshal,” he said. “These places that need inspections, do they have the ability to call the state fire marshal?”
Bill Green, who has volunteered to handle a few inspections in the county, told commissioners during their meeting last Monday, May 13, that indeed business owners can utilize the state for their inspections, but it can be costly.
“I have found that the state fire marshal does charge travel from Corpus Christi,” he said. “You are talking about mileage from there and fees.”
The state charges $100 to inspect a nursing home, $150 for a restaurant and $200 for inspection of an industrial facility or warehouse.
When the county did have a fire marshal, the local fees were considerably lower than the state. Inspection of a child care facility was $50 — compared to $75.
An apartment, or similar type of residence was $75 while the state fee is $150.
Salazar said, “That cost would be borne by the person requiring those services.
“What is going to happen is the taxpayers are going to pay if we have one locally.”
Commissioner Ken Haggard agreed that the county should look at the idea of not hiring its own fire marshal although he didn’t say he was committed to the idea.
“That is something to consider,” he said. “It says here — as requested.”
The county, he said, is out the fire marshal’s salary, however meager, if no one requests inspections.
Salazar said that in the absence of a local marshal, those needing fire inspections would simply be told to call the state.
“If they call the county judge’s office and say, ‘I need my business inspected,’ a response from the county judge’s office or us is, ‘Here is a phone number for the state fire marshal in Corpus Christi. That is who we utilize in Bee County because we don’t have a fire marshal.’”
The court made no decision as to whether to search out a new fire marshal, opting instead to discuss it with city officials in a workshop setting. They did, however, contract with Green to handle four inspections requested within the county — one of which was the courthouse.
“I have spent the last 32 years in the fire and safety business – both as a fire marshal and as a fire investigator,” Green said highlighting his qualifications.
He also has been looking into the county’s situation and discovered that whoever is hired to fill the vacant position will have quite a load to bear.
“This thing has kind of gotten a little out of control in a way,” he said. “The research I have conducted shows that there is a great deal of responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the fire marshal.
“He basically becomes the chief fire official for the entire county.
“He is required to conduct fire and safety inspections not only in the county but in municipalities, including Beeville, when requested.
“He is also required to conduct all fire investigations as requested by the various fire departments.”
Green said that the state charges for all inspections done by their fire marshal and board of insurance.
“The schedule of fees they charge runs from $75 up to over $300,” he said.
“I have it on very good authority they did an inspection at the South Texas Children’s Home, and they charged them $600 to inspect that facility,” Green said. “Provision in the local code allows the commissioners court to charge fees for inspections conducted by the (local) fire marshal. The court determines what fees would be charged.”
They cannot regulate state fees.
Green wasn’t advocating himself for this local position either. He merely volunteered to fill in and conduct the four necessary inspections.
“I am not really looking for work,” he said. “I am retired, and I really kind of like it.”
In fact, Green also agreed to do the inspections at no cost to the county.
Green added, “I did not do this originally expecting any type of compensation.”
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt asked, “Do we want to at least compensate him for his mileage?”
Judge David Silva, with unanimous approval from the court, responded, “I would not have any trouble at all if we could compensate for travel — it would be in order.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.