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Friday, February 29, 2008

DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones signs retrofit legislation

CEO Vernon Jones Sally Bethea DeKalb Retrofit Drought

CEO COMMODE: DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones signs the retrofit ordinance as the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's Sally Bethea, Georgia Conservancy's Shana Udvardy, and Francis Kung'u of the DeKalb Department of Watershed Management look on. In the foreground is Jones' prized brontosaurus tooth/low-flow shower head.

Nothing says progress like toilet legislation. After months of rewrites, negotiations and deferments, the DeKalb County Commission finally approved a controversial ordinance — one DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones calls the first in the state — that would require homeowners in the county to retrofit antiquated plumbing fixtures before they receive water service. The commission approved the ordinance Feb. 26, and Jones signed it this afternoon. If all pre-1993 plumbing fixtures in DeKalb are retrofit, Jones said, 6 million gallons of water per day could be conserved.

The Realtor industry attacked the measure, known as the Retro Plumbing Fixtures Act, when it was first introduced by Jones in November, because it placed the burden of retrofit compliance on their shoulders. With the rewritten and approved ordinance, it is now the homebuyer's responsibility to replace fixtures. About 165,000 homes will be affected by the ordinance. If your home was built after 1993, you have nothing to worry about, as the law already requires that all homes built after this date be outfitted with low-flow fixtures. The ordinance takes effect June 1, 2008, for residential properties. Commercial properties have until Jan. 1, 2009, to comply with the measure.

Properties exempt from the ordinance include:

  • Properties advertised for foreclosure

  • Homes that are slated to be torn down after purchase

  • Homes that are conveyed between spouses and children, either by sale or through wills

  • Homes in which, because of historic or architectural limitations, retrofitting would cost more than $1,000 per toilet. For commercial properties, the limit is $2,000 per toilet.

To receive water service, the buyer will have to present a certificate of compliance signed by either a home inspector, DeKalb Department of Watershed Management inspector or licensed plumber.

Barbara Campbell, president of the DeKalb Association of Realtors, has not returned calls for comment about how the organization feels about the ordinance.

Jones also said he will introduce legislation in March that would require all new multifamily housing buildings be outfitted with individual water meters. Most apartment buildings use a shared meter, making it difficult to measure how much water one unit is conserving. It would also enable officials to identify large water users. Jones also will request that the commission authorize a feasibility study to determine whether it would be wise to re-use water. That's otherwise known as re-using toilet water, peeps.

Jones said he will make an announcement sometime within the next two weeks as to whether the county will ease watering restrictions or allow residents and businesses fill swimming pools.

(photo by Thomas Wheatley)

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