Allegations of fire department harassment and a track record of violations played a role in the fines imposed on Tuesday to a West Valley lumber yard for fire code violations.
Attorneys for Barton's Builders Mart, 3555 W. 35th South, pleaded guilty in June to five fire code violations, and 3rd Circuit Judge Tyrone Medley ordered the company to pay $25,000 in fines - all but $2,500 of which was suspended. The business was also given 60 days to bring the business in full compliance with fire codes or face the possibility of paying the balance of the fine, said city prosecutor Spence Robinson.Fire Marshal John Blundell said the business had accused the fire department of harassment after officers cited the business for 17 Uniform Fire Code violations Dec. 28. Blundell said Medley's sentence and a pre-sentence report by Adult Probation and Parole vindicated the department from the allegations.
Sen. William T. Barton, who owns the lumber company, called the fines unfair and said again that several West Valley businesses feel the same way he does about the fire department.
Barton said he had started to find ways to work with the department, but the fines killed the spirit of cooperation.
Robinson said it was unusual for the judge to order a presentence report before passing judgment on a business, but he likely made the request because of the business' history of non-compliance to fire codes and the potential for civil liability by the city if it had not enforced the code.
The confrontation between Barton's and the city was augmented by the business' claims that the fire department had gone out of its way to pick on the business, Blundell said. "Compliance is the name of the game and that is what we were basically seeking."
The pre-sentence report made it clear the problems, although minor, were long-standing, Robinson said.
The original violations against the business included, improper wiring, the lack of fire extinguishers in a shop area and the absence of no-smoking signs in the lumber yard and shop area, according to court records.
Prosecutors dropped 12 of the charges when attorneys for the business agreed to plead guilty to the remaining five, Blundell said.