State commission rejects Region community efforts to require carbon monoxide detectors

Michigan City Fire Marshal Kyle Kazmierczak observes the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission Tuesday in Indianapolis as the commission votes to prevent a Michigan City ordinance from taking effect that would require newly built residences be outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors.

Dan Carden, The Times

A recent ruling by a state panel that's supposed to promote Hoosier safety highlights why only we as individuals can look out for our own best interests.

In what should have been an obvious ruling in favor of safer building codes, the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission unanimously rejected earlier this week a Michigan City carbon monoxide detector ordinance.

Michigan City came before the governor-appointed panel, seeking approval for an ordinance that would have required carbon monoxide detectors in all new construction.

Most of us are familiar with the dangers of CO. Threats from the odorless, colorless, fatally poisonous gas — often produced by malfunctioning home appliances — has been well publicized.

Members of the state safety panel no doubt know it, too. And if they don't, they have no business serving in that capacity.

The well-known dangers notwithstanding, the 11-member commission ruled Michigan City's ordiance defective due to "language" issues that weren't further explained to town leaders.

It appears to be the latest in a series of unnecessary hoops the board is forcing communities that want safer building codes to jump through.

A similar move by Chesterton also has been struck down by the panel. Similar ordinances passed in Porter and St. Joseph counties are pending.

LaPorte finally won approval for a carbon monoxide detector requirement — but only after a bureaucratic dance that required three attempts at passage.

When it comes to public safety, there should be no such dances.

Michigan City's ordinance was modeled on LaPorte's successful language.

Serious questions must also be raised of the panel's membership.

Michigan City Fire Marshal Kyle Kazmierczak said the panel is primarily made up of building and construction industry representatives. Of the 11 members, only two are firefighters, he added.

"What they're doing, in my opinion, is trying to draw it out as long as possible so we just go away," Kazmierczak said.

He's right to suggest the panel create a template for acceptable carbon monoxide detector ordinances, drawing on LaPorte's approved ordinance for a guide.

But Gov. Eric Holcomb also should be watching this process and intervening if necessary. The governor should revisit the board's makeup and ensure more folks with a professional safety background are considered.

Indiana lawmakers also should consider requiring carbon monoxide detectors in new construction as a matter of state law, not just local ordinances.

We realize Hoosier government often is leery of regulating business, and we understand the value of Indiana's business-friendly atmosphere to growing our economy.

But the paramount function of any government is public safety. Nothing trumps protecting our state's most important assets — its residents.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.