Higley to take over fire marshal duties

Robert Smith
Steve Hughes, at left, shakes hands with Pawhuska City Manager Dave Neely as Neely does a local re-presentation of the national code officer award that Hughes recently received in Minnesota. Hughes is taking training to become one of the city staff members who will be able to conduct fire marshal inspections of property. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Pawhuska City Manager Dave Neely told city councilors last week that a Stillwater firm will be taking over fire marshal property inspection duties for the city from the office of the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal.

Neely said Higley Consulting, of Stillwater, will handle the fire marshal inspection duties for Pawhuska until two city employees, Bill Bruce and Steve Hughes, can successfully complete the necessary training to be certified to take over. Bruce is the city utilities director and Hughes is the city code enforcement officer.

The amount of time that developers of commercial property in Pawhuska have had to wait for the state Fire Marshal’s office to get around to conducting property inspections has been a sore point in the local business community. Neely, who took over in August as city manager, inherited that issue.

In a follow-up interview with the Journal-Capital, Neely said Higley would be taking over the fire marshal inspection duties as soon as it could make arrangements with the state Fire Marshal’s office. Neely said it will be the company’s responsibility to make that connection.

Neely said Bruce and Hughes have already taken some of the training required for them to take over the inspection process, but there is more training they will have to complete.

“There’s quite a few hours that they’ve got to attend to be certified to do that,” Neely said. The cost of having the Higley firm do the inspections in the interim will be roughly what it costs to have the state do them, he said.

“It’s not cheap, but they (Higley) are putting their heads on the line when they make a decision (about a property),” Neely said.

In other business last week related to city government’s role in encouraging commercial development, Neely made a local re-presentation to Hughes of a national code-enforcement award that Hughes received in October in Minnesota. In remarks to the council, Hughes emphasized the importance of what he described as a proactive approach to managing compliance with municipal code requirements.

“Dilapidated structures have a tremendous negative impact on real estate values,” Hughes said. He added that Pawhuska is in “desperate need” of new home construction.