By Kera Mashek
Several people spoke out against it, but Cedar Falls city council members have passed a third and final reading amending a lock box ordinance, with a 6-1 vote.
The code still requires commercial or industrial properties that have at least one of three things—a sprinkler system, their own alarm, or a local alarm—to have a lock box. And now, apartment buildings with three or more units must have a lockbox. The previous ordinance required them for buildings with six or more units.
It’s been a controversial ordinance from the start. But all along the city has contested that it’s about safety.
Cedar Falls Fire Chief John Schilling says lock boxes are all about quicker property entry in life-saving and firefighting operations. Using a key to enter the property also prevents costly damage from breaking down doors and windows to get in. The chief says there’s not added risk with lock boxes in place.
But more than a dozen people spoke out against requiring more apartment units to have lock boxes, and they say the fight to stop this ordinance isn’t over.
“I have talked to many organizations and they’ve contacted me that are willing to help me file a lawsuit against the city of cedar falls, it’ll be the citizens of cedar falls versus the city of cedar falls because there are a lot of people that don’t like this,” said Judd Saul, who is opposed to the lock box ordinance.
As rental inspections occur, buildings with three or more units will be notified of the new lock box requirements. Again, nothing will change for commercial properties, since new businesses will still be required to add lock boxes under the 2004 ordinance.
The council also discussed forming a study group for the ordinance to look at any issues that come up as a result of the changes.
Waterloo has had a lock box ordinance in place for at least the last decade. The fire department says it’s a great program for the department and is used on a routine basis during emergency calls. The department says it also saves crews from doing any damage to get into a building.
In Cedar Rapids, firefighters have access to lock boxes, but they aren’t required for commercial or rental properties. On duty fire crews are the only people with access to the keys.
Iowa City fire crews have used lock boxes for more than 20 years. Lock boxes are required on all new commercial and residential construction, with the exception of one and two unit dwellings and apartment homes.