Town adds new electrical work requirement

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BRATTLEBORO — A new zoning ordinance amendment will require electrical work at one- and two-family rental units to be done by a licensed electrician.

Town Health Officer and Assistant Fire Chief Len Howard said Burlington, South Burlington and Barre City have the same requirement. He counted 432 buildings with two-family units and 55 single-family units in Brattleboro.

The ordinance was spurred by February 2018 fire at 100 Clark St. Howard said the cause involved a main electrical panel compromised by wiring work done by the landlord.

"This is an important issue that we as a town should be acting on," he wrote in a memo, explaining that the state only requires permits for construction and plumbing on such rentals.

"With one of the leading causes of fires in the United States being electrical distribution and lighting equipment, this ordinance will provide needed protection to landlords and tenants in Brattleboro. We as inspectors see in our routine inspections and complaint investigations that there are landlords that own multiple buildings in town who continue to perform electric work that is substandard."

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In a memo, Deputy Health Officer and Zoning Administrator Brian Bannon cited health and safety violations at properties owned by Will Hunter at 48-50 Central St. and 6 Reynolds Drive as an example. The town has gone to court in recent months to push Hunter to resolve issues at those units, which involve more than electrical work.

After a second hearing on the ordinance amendment during its meeting via video conference Tuesday, the Select Board voted 5-0 to add the requirement. If the town does not receive a petition against it within 44 days, the ordinance will take effect 60 days from Wednesday.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said the state already requires electrical work be done by licensed electricians in rentals with three or more units.

Board Chairman Tim Wessel said he disagreed with concerns he has heard about the new requirement being an example of overreach and "overly burdensome." Board member Brandie Starr looked it as a way to offer more protection to vulnerable community members.

Board Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth McLoughlin said the board should be most concerned about "health, safety and welfare." Board member Ian Goodnow encouraged board members to vote for the requirement.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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