MERRILLVILLE | Merrillville's fire inspector is supportive of a proposal seeking the registration of group homes in the town.
Merrillville Fire Marshal Phil Topor attended Tuesday's Town Council meeting to urge town officials to continue pursuing the matter and possibly expand the potential ordinance to include adult and child day care facilities operated in single-family homes.
Topor said group homes must abide by state regulations, but those facilities might not be inspected annually by state departments.
He said Merrillville's ordinance could set provisions that would allow the town to inspect group homes to ensure the facilities are following state codes.
Topor and other town officials said requiring the registration of those facilities would help the town identify all group homes in Merrillville. That information would be helpful to the town's police officers and firefighters if there were an emergency at any of those facilities.
If emergency personnel are unaware they are responding to a group home, it can create difficulties when they arrive, Topor said.
Plan Commission member Brian Dering, who also attended Tuesday's meeting, said he agrees with the safety aspect of Merrillville's proposal, but he stressed the town must be careful to ensure it protects the rights of residents at group homes.
Councilwoman Carol Miano said Merrillville wouldn't seek information from group homes that would violate laws regarding medical privacy.
Town Attorney John Bushemi said he would work closely with the council as it investigates the proposed measure to make sure public safety would be properly balanced with the rights of special needs residents.