HB220 moves forward with changes, public safety officials still concerned
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - One local fire chief says the fight is not over concerning a bill, passed by state lawmakers, that’s raises safety concerns about school construction projects.
House Bill 220 will remove oversight by the state on construction projects of $500,000 or less at K-12 schools and institutes of higher learning. The Division of Construction Management, which is a state agency, typically provides oversight on projects. That responsibility would be transferred to the governing board of each institution.
The bill now also includes executive amendments from Governor Ivey that establish a task force to review safety concerns related to the bill, before it’s implemented in February 2022.
“This is a good opportunity for everybody,” said Chief Tim Love, Alabama Fire and Rescue, “I like to fix a problem, not just for tomorrow - but for the next 30 years.”
Love hopes he’s bought some time to fix a newly passed bill he believes has critical safety gaps.
“One of the things we shared with the governor is that people keep saying small project,” said Love, “I reminded them of a sign at the Birmingham Airport that fell in 2013. It was a small project, but it killed a young child and injured 3 others. Every project due to complexity can present a danger.”
When first we spoke with Chief Love in April -- he’d already sent a letter to the state on behalf of the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs. Some state construction agencies had sent a letter as well. Their concern is changing oversight and not have independent oversight requirements it could leave safety gaps at your child’s school.
Chief Love says proponents of the bill say its intent is to streamline and speed up school construction projects, but he hopes the task force could get to the root of the problem with construction delays at K-12 schools and tweak the bill to address that.
“I would like to review the various complaints that legislators have been receiving,” said Love, " Let’s see the cause of the delay. The cause of the price increase. Let’s streamline that and not put this law into place.”
WBRC left a message with (R) Nathaniel Ledbetter, who advocated for the bill.
The 12-member task force responsible for the review process, has not been named, but would include a member of the fire chief’s association, state lawmakers, education leaders, engineer and construction experts, and a member appointed by the Governor. The group must have the first meeting before July 15th.
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