The businessman found the visit annoying and redundant. Then he was hit with the $75 fee and, to top it off, the fire marshal was packing a pistol for his inspection, because he’s also a certified law officer.
Regardless, it sort of had the feel of a Chicago building inspector shakedown.
In selling the creation of the new fire marshal position, the Commissioners Court was excited about it not costing taxpayers money and promising that the move would lower fire insurance rates for Bee County by lowering the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating.
Let’s begin with the promise of lower insurance rates via the ISO rating. A quick check of the Internet finds that many insurance companies have dropped the ISO rating as a consideration in their rates. State Farm, for instance, quit using ISO ratings in 2001, preferring other, more exact data to set rates for specific buildings.
Insurance professionals we spoke with say it’s unlikely Bee Countians would see any rate reductions from the newly created position.
As for not costing taxpayers money, these annual visits will cost businesses $75 a year, which may not be much when you’re a commissioner and spending other people’s money, but to businesses, it’s just another tax.
Businesses already have a wealth of options when it comes to fire safety at far less cost. We, for instance, undergo inspections from our fire extinguisher company every year and update those. There’s also the Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program (OSHCON) housed at the Texas Department of Insurance, which provides full safety inspections, including fire prevention and systems, for free.
The court should rethink foisting another redundant bureaucracy on citizens.
At best, this move looks like it’s taken from the California school of government overregulation and waste. At worst, it looks like the Chicago shakedown as previously mentioned.
There’s a reason businesses are fleeing unnecessary, burdensome regulation to come to Texas. Let’s not start mucking it up at the local level.
At the very least, reduce the fee to reflect the actual service provided, as well as the truth – or lack thereof –about cutting our fire insurance rates. Oh, and ditch the pistol on fire inspection visits. It’s a bit over the top.
– Jeff Latcham