Official: Mid-Rise Can't Be Forced to Install Generator
Hellertown Borough Council was told Dec. 19 that the Front Street Apartments has a clear certificate of occupancy.
The Front Street Apartments--which were without power for an extended period following the October 29, 2011 snowstorm--cannot be required to install an emergency generator under current code, Hellertown Borough Council was told Dec. 19.
The borough's zoning and codes enforcement officer, Joe Chernaskey, reported to council that the four-story building at 950 Front Street has "a clear certificate of occupancy" that was issued in 1996.
Under current regulations, that means he cannot require the senior housing complex to install a generator that would provide power and heat to the building in the event of another blackout, Chernaskey said.
The best he can do for now, he explained, will be to write "a strongly worded letter" to the building's owner, Valley Housing.
In the letter, Chernaskey said he plans to tell Valley Housing that the building should have a back-up power source, and that the welfare of Front Street's mainly elderly tenants should be considered.
The Front Street Apartments were built in the mid-1990s, but it wasn't until this fall's snowstorm that borough officials realized the building's tenants are vulnerable in the event of a major power outage.
Many residents of the Front Street Apartments did not have the transportation or resources needed to leave their building for the duration of the blackout, and the emergency lighting in the building only worked for six hours, officials reported.
County emergency resources weren't deployed because roads were open and the worst damage from the storm was largely confined to the southern part of Northampton County.
Another senior housing complex in Hellertown--Saucon Manor--had limited electricity provided by a generator, but lacked heat during the late October outage.
Borough officials said recently that they plan to seek grants in order to upgrade the electrical system and possibly add generators at Dewey Fire Company No. 1, so the centrally-located fire house can serve as a shelter for Hellertown residents in the event of another major blackout.
At the Dec. 19 meeting, Borough Manager Cathy Kichline also said that Northampton County's Emergency Management Agency is currently documenting senior housing facilities without generators "so that they know, in the event of an emergency, that they'll be able to deal with those immediately."