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CHARLESTON -- Two significant changes to the city's building code could make life simpler for area contractors and business owners.

One change has to do with the installation of metallic raceways and the other the installation of sprinkler systems. City Planner Steve Pamperin said the city adopted the 2005 National Electrical Code as a guide in 2011; however, a local amendment left from the prior code stating that wire must be installed in raceways in all cases except for special exceptions stuck around and was applied to the 2005 NEC.

The change, now on file for public inspection, would get rid of the local amendment, Pamperin said.

"Basically, we're going to replace it with wording that says, 'all wiring shall conform to the National Electric Code,'" he said.

The change could save contractors some money if their building isn't required to install the raceways, Pamperin said. That doesn't mean metallic raceway is entirely optional, though -- by state law, building architects will need to determine if the raceway is required, Pamperin said.

"We have determined that the National Electric Code should be the model that governs us," Pamperin said.

Electrical inspector Joel Ranson said the city revisited the amendment about four years ago.

"(Contractors) had asked us to look into it again at that point," Ranson said.

Fire Chief Pat Goodwin said the NEC is published by the National Fire Protection Agency as the minimum measures a building must take in order to be completely safe -- and those are the measures the city will follow when it comes to the raceways.

"In that code, they're saying 'if installed correctly, this is safe in these applications,'" Goodwin said.

The second change to the code will clarify a portion of the 2009 International Building Code and International Fire Code, which the city also adopted in 2011. The codes talk about when sprinkler systems are required -- but when it comes to buildings displaying or selling upholstered furniture, they don't specify how many square feet of upholstered furniture a building can have before the systems are required, Pamperin said.

The code writers, the International Code Council, rectified that in the 2012 code, stating that a building must have sprinkler systems if it has more than 5,000 square feet of upholstered furniture, he said. The city has not adopted the 2012 codes in their entirety -- it will keep the 2009 code but adopt this specific change as a local amendment, Pamperin said.

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The city wants to ensure it's not requiring a store to have sprinklers just because it's trying to sell one sofa, he said.

"The number they put on it was 5,000 square feet, because you're going to have more of that material -- potentially more of a fire load," he said.

Pamperin said a of local couple stores wanted to sell upholstered furniture but weren't clear on the rules. Adopting this change should fix that, he said.

The rules evolve over time -- Pamperin said the city looks at adopting a new code every six to eight years.

Goodwin said the changes are about making sure safety standards are clear.

"Our side's role -- and really everybody's -- is public safety," he said. "These books allow that factor. They've deemed that these requirements are safe."

Residents with any comments or questions have two weeks to contact city officials before the changes go back for a vote during the city council's Jan. 20 meeting.

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Contact Burgstahler at kburgstahler@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6839.

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