Thursday, Sept. 3-Resort CO Plan Focuses On Education

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s strategy for enforcement of the carbon monoxide (CO) law seems to be one of defense through diplomacy instead of offense via all-out inspections.

Town officials are keen on spreading the word about their carbon monoxide detector law, since only 17 percent of properties are in compliance, according to Fire Marshal Sam Villani on Tuesday.

Villani said that the best way to deal with non-compliance of the city’s carbon monoxide detector law is through education, and though that might be the most direct way to handle the matter to some in the community who are up in arms about two CO leaks at resort hotels this summer, town officials seem to be in concurrence that it’s the most effective.

“It’s not like we have Gestapo-like powers to search properties for CO detectors,” said City Manager Dennis Dare. “Sam [Villani] has to make an appointment, so inspections in many cases, would take a lot of time, cost a lot of money and might not be that effective. Education is the best way to let people know.”

Villani outlined to the Mayor and City Council his recommended strategies in order to avoid potential tragedies in Ocean City like this summer’s two CO leaks at the Americana Hotel and the El Capitan, and the 2006 leak at the Days Inn Hotel that claimed the lives of a Pennsylvania man and his 10-year-old daughter.

“Information on carbon monoxide legislation has been sent out and we are in the process of getting the message out about the dangers of carbon monoxide,” said Villani.

Villani said that a 30-second public service announcement will be run on eight local radio stations in upcoming weeks reminding property owners and residents about not only the town law, which requires CO detectors in buildings that have fuel burning equipment, but also the dangers of the toxic, colorless, and odorless gas.

Villani said that even though “about 70 percent of the 1,200 units inspected in Ocean City were found to be in compliance,” only 17 percent of the nearly 30,000 units that need them have sent his office a confirmation letter of concurrence with town law.

Simply put, after the town passed the ordinance in February of 2007, property owners had 24 months to comply with the law, and after that grace-period of sorts expired this past February, Villani’s office should have received a written letter from all property owners notifying the city of compliance with the law.

This fact perhaps made some on the council a bit pessimistic on whether or not more education and diplomacy with property owners was the best way to ensure that Ocean City’s visitors would not be subjected to future CO leaks.

“What good is that going to do, if I sign it and send it back to you?,” queried councilman Jim Hall.

Villani said that reminders will be inserted into business license renewal forms, tax bills, door-to-door education and disseminated through social networking and online mediums.

For the complete story and more comments from city officials on this issue, see The Dispatch tomorrow morning.