An estimated 75 percent of docks inspected by the Osage Beach Fire Protection District do not meet current inspection requirements.
Fire Chief Jeff Dorhauer announced last week that his department will hold a public hearing June 18 at Fire Station No. 1 on Bluff Drive in Osage Beach gather input on a proposal to expand the current dock inspection criteria in hopes of savings lives and reducing the percentage of docks out of compliance.
There are 2,711 docks within the OBPFD jurisdiction, which is only a fraction of the estimated 24,359 docks on the Lake of the Ozarks. Less than half of the docks on the lake are in areas with code enforcement, according to Dorhauer.
"I think our board has been concerned about what could be done for some time now," the fire chief said. "We have done some work at both the local and state levels in an effort to answer this problem, and we feel that this problem is not only an issue at our lake, but it is an issue with every waterway in the state."
But the OBFPD board of directors isn't willing to wait to see if the state gets involved with dock inspection requirements.
"We had to ask ourselves what we could do within our own jurisdiction to move toward a safer lake while we continue to work with the state," Dorhauer explained.
A potential solution is to expand the current dock inspection program. On the agenda at the 4 p.m. meeting June 18 is a proposal that all docks within the OBFPD service area involved in a transfer of ownership due to sale of real estate be required to be inspected and brought into compliance before Ameren Missouri transfers the dock permit into the new owner's name.
Any residential home with a current dock that is being sold would have to have an inspection and be brought up to current standards prior to Ameren changing the name on that specific dock permit. The inspection would be good for a period of one year.
The new requirement would not be enforced on multi-well docks that are tied to an association with multiple slip owners in the same structure, Dorhauer explained.
The chief says he believes other fire districts with codes in place will be moving forward similar language in the near future.
The current program requires that all docks within the district that meet the following criteria have a permit issued and be brought to the current standard for electrical:
•New dock construction
•Current dock being changed/remodeled/addition including upgrade of electrical system
The proposed change to this process would include:
Page 2 of 2 - •All docks involved in a transfer of ownership due to sale of real estate will be required to be inspected and brought into compliance prior to Ameren changing the dock permit into the new owner's name.
Many meetings with fire chiefs, Ameren Missouri officials and code officials have been on going for several years.
The OBFPD has sent a letter to state representatives asking for legislation that would help fire districts and municipalities work toward preventing the electrocution-related tragedies such as the three deaths last summer.
"We believe the incidents that occurred on our lake last year are not symptomatic to just the Lake of the Ozarks, but can occur anywhere in the state that has floating structures and docks with electricity," the letter stated.
The challenge, the letter points out, is how enforcement agencies can cross jurisdictional boundaries on recreational lakes and rivers to help ensure the safety of residents and visitors.
"We believe that there are many stakeholders who should be at the table for this discussion as we develop recommendations for possible legislative action," Dorhauer said in the letter. "Moving forward too quickly would only create additional issues, thus taking the focus away from our real concern ― public safety.
"State legislation may be needed in the future and I hope when we are prepared to cross that bridge we can work closely with your office to accomplish this task," Dorhauer said in the letter.
The OBFPD and lake-area districts will be working closely with the Missouri Division of Fire Safety and Reps. Rocky Miller and Diane Franklin.
Fire districts that serve the lake and Ameren Missouri built a partnership to address this issue in 2006 by requiring newly constructed docks, remodeled docks and docks moved to a new location be wired to a standard and inspected prior to permits being issued.
"While these requirements only encompassed areas that were within the boundaries of fire districts currently enforcing codes, it was a positive move forward," Dorhauer explained.
Fire districts continue to meet with Ameren to further expand the program in an effort to help reduce the risk.
"We're hopeful to be able to design and implement additional phases to this program in the near future," he said.