Council OKs smoke-detector ordinance, road repair funds

The Indianapolis City-County Council voted 24-5 Monday night to update the city code on smoke detectors in favor of new tamper-proof, long-life battery technology.

The council also voted 24-5 to spend $8.3 million from the Rebuild Indy fund on emergency road repairs in the wake of winter storm damage.

The smoke detector ordinance update requires all homes that don't have hard-wired detectors to use those with "non-removable, non-replaceable batteries." The proposal was passed last month by the council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee.

A number of manufacturers offer detectors with tamper-proof batteries that they claim will last 10 years. The new battery technology is more expensive, but supporters said it’s worthwhile because it might prevent people from disabling smoke detectors because of false alarms or low-battery chirps.

Homeowners and landlords don't have to replace detectors with the new type unless existing detectors are broken and need to be replaced.

Before the vote, Republican Councilor Christine Scales pleaded with members to consider her amendment, which would have required homes to have two detectors, one with each type of sensor technology to match different types of fire scenarios, smoldering versus fast-flaming. That amendment failed 24-5..

The council easily approved the road-repair money, but referred a Democrat-sponsored proposal for another $16 million in road repairs to committee. Existing city funds, rather than the Rebuild Indy funds from the sale of the water utility to Citizens Energy, would be used for repairs under that proposal.

One of the 'no' votes, Republican Councilor Jack Sandlin protested council members' influence on the Department of Public Works' project list.

“This proposal was tabled and came back to us with political changes,” said Sandlin, a member of the council's public works committee. “In Washington I guess they call it earmarks or pork. I'm not going to vote for this as long as we have political influences dictating where these roads need to be paved.”

DPW revised the list of roads that will be repaired after the original request was tabled in committee. Democrats on the committee protested that no work was planned in some Democratic council districts, including the northeast-side District 10 represented by William Oliver.

Oliver thanked Vernon Brown, the committee chairman, and Democratic Majority Leader Monroe Gray for intervening. Brown said that while he and Gray met with DPW Director Lori Miser, “At no time did we direct them what streets to pave. All we requested was a fair and equitable distribution of resources.”

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