Cumberland Times-News

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February 21, 2014

Frostburg officials react to opinions on fatal fire

Editor’s note: The following statement was submitted by Frostburg Mayor Robert Flanigan and members of the City Council.

The tragic fire at 144 Bowery St. on Feb. 14 has unfortunately spawned a number of uninformed letters to the editor and other postings that misrepresent the codes of the city of Frostburg and make assumptions regarding the causes for the tragedy without benefit of the pending report from the state fire marshal. 

The Rental Housing Ordinance for the city of Frostburg and the corresponding electrical, plumbing and fire codes adopted by the city of Frostburg provide full and complete standards for all rental units in our city.  The rental housing code is enforced on all rental properties within the city, regardless of whether the tenants are students or senior citizens. Rental properties are registered annually and inspected regularly. Anyone interested in the truth can find the rental housing code at our website, www.frostburgcity.com.

No city ordinance prohibits unrelated persons from being tenants in any home anywhere in the city of Frostburg. Within the various residential zones there are limits to the number of unrelated persons permitted in order to prohibit the old-style “animal house” rentals. These types of abusive residential rentals are being eliminated in all college towns. 

The city is committed to fair housing and as such the same standards are applied to all rental housing in the city of Frostburg.  Moreover, it would be against the law for the city to limit, through zoning, where students may live — it is just common sense for students to want to live in those neighborhoods adjacent to the university so that they are able to walk to class.

The age and construction of a home, regardless of where it is located, is not an indication of its safety or compliance with codes. In the case of 144 Bowery St., the property was in compliance with city codes and has been regularly inspected since 1996. 

Finally, we find it sad that anyone would make statements or issue opinions about such a tragic loss when the official report from the Office of the State Fire Marshal has not been issued. Opinions of persons not directly involved in the event only serve to confuse the situation and generally misrepresent the facts. The city government stands by its commitment, in partnership with the administration at Frostburg State University, to make the experience of all students as safe as is possible.

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