Some hesitant council members want more information before voting

    Although City Administrator Shannon Stassen and his staff recommended approval of the ordinance adoption, Crookston City Council members want more information from local apartment complex owners before they adopt a portion of the 2015 Minnesota State Fire Code that would ban open flame or barbecues on balconies and patios.

    It’s expected that Stassen and Crookston Fire Department officials will have the requested information for the council’s Ways & Means Committee meeting on Sept. 5 or Sept. 12.

    While everyone around the table agrees that barbecue grills, whether they’re fueled by charcoal or propane tanks, present a fire safety hazard in apartment complexes – especially to units located above the grill – some council members said they felt a little uneasy about adopting “Appendix K” of the state fire code into an ordinance without getting more information and/or input from the owners of apartment complexes in Crookston.

    Such grill activity is already prohibited in some local apartment complexes by the landlords who own the property, Brian Halos of the Crookston Fire Department says.

    “We’ve had some close calls,” he said. “If you start a grill and start a fire, it’s usually not you affected, it’s the units upstairs. We haven’t lost buildings, but we have had damage and close calls with a charred deck above.”

    The CFD has been advocating for years for the ordinance’s adoption, Halos added. Having the ordinance on the books would give firefighters another tool in the tool box, he explained, when they carry out the City’s rental inspection program. “It would give us a tool to enforce at places like Memorial Drive, where nothing is in the lease,” Halos said.

    Halos said some apartment complex owners have indicated they’d like the ordinance as a tool for them to use as well to make it more ironclad for them to put a grill ban in a lease agreement.

     “They don’t want to be seen as the bad guy,” he said.

    When he didn’t get a clear answer to his question about the ordinance covering smaller, camp-style stoves and grills that use much smaller propane tanks, At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud said he wants more information before he votes on anything.

    “I’d rather find out from the landlords if this is something they’re willing to say no to, or will they allow certain types,” he said. “I would like to see a tad more research with the landlords and bring it back to us.”

    Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said he thinks the rental property owners should take the lead on such a regulation, not the City, even if it would only be adopting part of a state fire code. “It seems like we’re over-regulating rules,” he said. “Let’s get it out there and give them some knowledge and options, but to me it’s their decision to regulate that in their own buildings.”

    Even if the council eventually decides against adopting the state code language into a local ordinance, Halos said the CFD will continue to encourage landlords at apartment complexes to include a grill and barbecue ban on tenants’ decks and patios.