Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 12, 2013

Courthouse attic deemed fire hazard

Miami Co. officials call 4th floor a ‘dump’ for junk

By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer

— PERU — The Peru Fire Department is requiring Miami County officials to clean up the fourth floor of the courthouse after inspectors said piles of junk and stacks of paper were creating a fire hazard.

The Miami County commissioners said Monday county employees have used the fourth floor for decades as a “dump site” for broken furniture, out-of-date office equipment and stacks of old government documents.

Clerk Tawna Leffel said the floor also contains piles of old books, some of which date back to the 1800s.

Fire department inspectors said the area was a fire hazard after finding piles of paper stacked near a furnace, said Commissioner Josh Francis. He said it was so crowded with debris that firefighters would have difficulty maneuvering the area in the event of a fire.

“That area has really been let go,” Francis said. “We need to take care of this and get it organized ... I’d rather not find out what kind of fine we would face.”

Peru Fire Inspector Herb Hunt said fines for not complying with fire codes range from $150 to $2,500, depending on the severity of the violation.

Francis said commissioners will allow department heads to peruse the floor for any supplies they might use in their offices. The rest of the items will be sold at a public sale later this year. He said anything not sold will be thrown out.

Francis said the floor will continue to house old government documents, however, since some are required by state law to either be permanently archived or scanned into a computer.

He said the fourth floor is the only available space in the courthouse for records, but the boxes will all be kept well away from the furnace.

But Leffel said it will be an undertaking to sort through all the old documents to determine which can be destroyed.

“It’s kind of a scary thing when you’re trying to get rid of records, and you don’t know if you can or can’t,” she said.

Commissioner Larry West said the area needed to be cleaned up whether or not the fire department required it.

“We shouldn’t be cleaning this up because the fire marshal told us to,” he said. “We should clean it up because it needs done.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He can be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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