Dem Bills Limit Powers of Emergency Manager in Hazardous Building Closures

Ability to close unsafe buildings would be given back to fire authorities
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

LANSING — State Representatives Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) and Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) have introduced legislation that would give fire marshals, fire department chiefs, and other state or local fire fighter authorities the final say in closing schools and other buildings that are determined to be safety risks. Currently, in cities and school districts under supervision of an emergency manager, the governor-appointed emergency manager — and not a fire marshal or fire chief — is allowed to make that decision. 

“The health and safety of our residents should be our top priority,” said Rep. Wittenberg. “The decisions regarding keeping our citizens out of hazardous buildings should be in the hands of someone who has their well-being, and not financial stability, as their number one priority. I strongly believe that fire marshals have a better understanding of hazardous conditions than emergency managers.”

 House Bills 5609 and 5610 would amend both the Fire Prevention Code and the Financial Stability and Choice Act to allow for state and/or local fire authorities to have the final say in the closure of buildings, rather than emergency managers. This simple change will return this power that is already granted to fire authorities in all other circumstances under the Fire Prevention Code.

“In 2011, students, teachers and other employees were all told by the Detroit Public School emergency manager to continue going to Martin Luther King Jr. High School in my district while asbestos abatement was taking place, although the construction company had said the building was not safe for occupancy,” Rep. Chang said. “The fire marshal, not the emergency manager, should have been able to make the decision regarding the safety of this building. Our bills will address this issue and help protect the safety of our residents.”