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Friday, August 22, 2014
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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

A dim idea

YOU might say the proposal for new regulation of low-voltage wiring systems in Toledo homes lacked the necessary juice, although it certainly generated a lot of heat.

Either way, the idea of requiring a $40 permit and subsequent city inspections for wiring systems carrying less than 50 volts was a dim one, which would only place unwarranted burdens on local businesses and residents.

This proposal should be short-circuited permanently before City Council goes any further.

The brainchild of the city's electrical board of control, the ordinance was supposedly designed to remove a safety hazard created when do-it-yourselfers or unlicensed contractors punch holes through firewalls or place low-voltage lines too close to a home's high-voltage wiring.

Improved safety is a worthy goal but in this case it appears that safety was an issue mainly in the minds of the construction and electrical unions, contractors, and city inspectors who make up the control board.

Neither state Fire Marshal and former Toledo fire Chief Mike Bell, Toledo Division of Building Inspections Commissioner Chris Zevros, nor anyone else could cite even one example of a residential or commercial fire caused by improper low-voltage wiring.

That might explain why no other city in Ohio requires permits and inspections for low-voltage installations.

Which is not to say people didn't get cranked up over the idea. More than 100 people attended a City Council committee meeting this week to let council know what they thought, which was that the proposal would impose an unnecessary burden on small businesses and residents.

And so it would. The regulation would have added $40 to the cost, not to mention the delay involved in securing the permit, for businesses installing commercial burglar alarms, residential fire alarms, security systems, telephone lines, and more, making it harder for them to do business, especially in a down economy.

The $40 fee, as well as the post-installation inspection requirement, would have dissuaded many homeowners from doing the work themselves, thereby hurting the bottom line of businesses that sell grounding systems, cable trays, lighting control systems, cooling controls, and other electrical materials.

The ultimate source of this idea is unclear, but it looks very much like regulatory overzealousness or that someone in city government saw it as a way to help balance the city's flagging budget.

In any case, it was a shockingly poor proposal that, instead of being redrafted, should never see the light of day again.



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