The Ellis County Commissioners Court held a workshop meeting Thursday, Aug. 8, to discuss possible changes within the fire marshal’s office. Presenting these items for discussion was Ellis County Fire Marshal Joe Stewart.

Stewart asked the commission for its consideration on updates and corrections to the county’s fire code. One suggestion that Stewart made was to eliminate operational permits in the code for industries that are not operating in the county. This would allow the fire code to be centered on regulations for industries that are established in the county and help inspectors more easily identify hazards.  

Examples of the operational permits to be eliminated are dry cleaning plants, aviation facilities, industrial ovens, lumberyards, woodworking plants and covered mall buildings.

Stewart said that if one of these industries began operation in the county any dangers could be addressed through a building permit and it would be inspected on a regular basis by the fire marshal’s office.

Stewart also suggested an increase on building inspection fees to help cover the time inspectors are spending at a site.

Stewart then presented the need to have additional fire safety inspectors. Stewart said the inspectors would be hired as county employees and not as contract workers. The employees would be limited to 16 hours a week. The pay of these employees would come from the fees collected from inspections and the rate of pay would be based on certifications they have.

Stewart said the individuals that he would look at hiring for the part time positions would be local firefighters who are already certified as inspectors.

Another proposed change was to expand the fire inspection services to small cities within the county. Stewart said he has had several small cities enquire about this type of service. These cities don’t have the funds to budget for a fire marshal or inspectors like the larger cities – Waxahachie, Red Oak, Midlothian or Ennis, Stewart said.

Stewart recommended that before providing this service that an interlocal agreement be signed with cities that would want to participate. This agreement would allow the county fire marshal to have jurisdiction inside the municipality.

The interlocal agreement would also allow for the county or a participating city to back out and not be tied to it permanently.

Commissioners looked at a possible interlocal agreement with the city of Waxahachie for emergency communication services. Stewart said an agreement would allow the county to send out critical information to the public if the county’s communication system went down due to a natural disaster or technical issue. The agreement would also allow first responders and equipment to be dispatched to an emergency scene if county communications went down.

Since this was a workshop all items on the agenda were listed for discussion only, the commissioners took no action.

Following the workshop a regular meeting of the court was held. Commissioners approved enacting the burn ban.

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