City approves new regs for child care facilities|[01/11/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

A set of safety standards geared to bring existing child care facilities into compliance with regulations governing new facilities breezed to approval by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Wednesday.

Day cares that were licensed before Oct. 1, 2006, will be free to have &#8220any acceptable method” of smoke detection system other than multistation smoke detectors if they operate less than 24 hours a day, provided the system is approved by building inspectors and the fire department.

&#8220This is what we’re using as a guideline for my department to enforce it,” said Victor Gray-Lewis, director of building inspections.

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The issue came up in October when Cradle to Crayons opened on Drummond Street. When operators attempted to purchase a privilege license, city inspectors found the building did not have adequate sprinkler systems and exit doors to protect in case of fire.

Those items are required by more stringent building codes adopted in 2003. The code directs day cares to install exit doors in each classroom, upgrade vent hoods for cooking, and install a sprinkler system.

Wednesday’s action saved day cares already operating from having to meet those rules. They were crafted in a series of meetings between operators and inspectors in which need-specific rules were established. For example, day cares that do not cook food don’t have the same kitchen safety standards as those that do.

The Oct. 1 date was agreed upon to account for Cradle to Crayons, which was licensed by the city Oct. 16.

Mayor Laurence Leyens commended the committee’s ability to resolve the issue, one that he said &#8220should be driven by the private sector.”

The Rev. Tommy Miller of Good Shepherd Community Center, who headed up the committee in its talks with the city, agreed the group should have &#8220at least a yearly meeting” to discuss the policy’s effectiveness.

Buildings that house day cares that are older, wood-framed structures would be deemed &#8220combustible” and will have to install the smoke detectors or enhanced alarms, plus emergency lighting. They must also upgrade existing doors with either crash bars or simple turn-latches.

Those fitting the criteria of an existing day care and need to bring their buildings up to the newly approved standards have until Jan. 1, 2008 to do so.

Day cares are inspected by the Vicksburg Fire Department, along with other city businesses, for working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, feasible evacuation routes and building exit doors.

The Mississippi Department of Health issues licenses to day cares statewide and conducts inspections yearly for operators to renew them. Licensing fees are based on enrollment, ranging from $50 for those with 12 or fewer children up to $200 for those with 76 or more children.

The department lists 38 licensed in Warren County, with 32 within city limits. Six operate outside city limits and are unaffected by the effort, as Warren County has no building inspection code or zoning in place.

According to MDH, 2,519 children are enrolled in day cares in all of Warren County. The department does not keep a separate enrollment count for municipalities.