Oak Ridge North City Council approves code updates, HUD civil rights policies and procedures

The Oak Ridge North City Council met for a special  session Nov. 13. Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper
The Oak Ridge North City Council met for a special session Nov. 13. Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper

The Oak Ridge North City Council met for a special session Nov. 13. Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper

The Oak Ridge North City Council on Nov. 13 unanimously approved several updates to the city’s technical building codes that officials said would improve safety. Council also adopted a series of civil rights procedures required for the federal grant program that will fund the construction of a new city detention basin.

During a presentation on the code updates, building official John Beisert said the city had been in the process of reviewing and updating its codes for years and recommended the council adopt the 2018 versions of the international plumbing, fuel gas, mechanical, energy conservation and pool and spa codes.

The last wide-ranging city code update occurred in 2012 with the adoption of several 2009 international codes, according to the presentation compiled by Beisert. He said the selected code updates would benefit general safety and business within the city.

“Going through some of the changes, it helps a lot of smaller businesses—especially the plumbing code,” Beisert said. “What I’m recommending is basically a straight adoption, no amendments except fee schedules and such to match our city fee schedule.”

Following Beisert’s comments, the council unanimously adopted the five new code versions with no changes.

The council also approved the adoption of seven civil rights policies and procedures Wednesday night in order to move forward on the development of a new regional detention basin on Spring Pines Drive. The city is constructing the basin with $840,000 in funding from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development disaster recovery grant program, and while the project itself is unrelated to housing the city must comply with HUD policies to receive the funding.

“Your [$]840,000 comes with strings, and the strings are you have to pass certain civil rights policies. And it’s an all or nothing deal,” City Attorney Chris Nichols said.

The seven required policies cover topics such as citizen grievances, fair housing and conduct of city employees. The policies were unanimously approved by the council, clearing the way for the continued funding of the drainage basin’s development. According to Director of Public Works Joe Sherwin, the project is currently in its environmental review phase and is expected to begin construction in spring 2020 and to be completed by fall 2021.

Prior to covering its planned agenda items, council also heard several local residents’ concerns about recent flooding and the presence of debris in portions of local drainage ditches. During his department report, Sherwin shared more information about the area's drainage capacity in the wake of recent storms and city efforts to assist residents during severe weather events.

“We just don’t have the ability to go out there with a broom every time somebody drops some leaves in the storm drain,” Sherwin said. “The real issue is they got water in their house, and you can’t explain that away well enough to take the damage and the heartbreak out, and that’s the problem that I have ... We’re going to continue to do our maintenance as best we can as often as we can.”
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.


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