LAMPASAS — Jamie Garrett, owner of property management company Garrett Management, was surprised by a $1,000 upgrade she was required to make to one of her rental properties this month.
After one tenant left and a new one took his place, an electrical ordinance change enacted this month caused city building inspectors to flag Garrett’s property for noncompliance.
“I was unaware that there needed to be a disconnect breaker by the meter,” Garrett told the Lampasas City Council on Monday. “They went to turn the utilities on, and Jerry called and said that ‘you don’t have a utility breaker, so you’re going to have to do 200 amp service to the house.’”
The revised ordinance will help cut fire risks, according to the city, but it also could cost residents more than $1,000 to comply.
To align with national electrical regulations, the city now requires a minimum 200 amp electrical service and disconnect in homes.
The previous requirement was 60 amps.
Mayor Jerry Grayson said some homes in Lampasas don’t even meet the 60 amp minimum.
“It’s been something that’s been overlooked,” Grayson said, referring to the city’s failure to enforce the former ordinance. A disconnect is the master switch in the breaker box that allows emergency responders to quickly shut off a home’s power, said Jerry Bunting, city building inspector.
If a home does not have a disconnect and firefighters or other emergency responders need to shut off power, responders literally have to pull the home’s meter box out of the ground — a task that could waste crucial time in a fire or other crisis-like situation, Bunting said.
While many newer homes are up-to-date, some older houses were wired to only support 60 amps of service, according to city officials.
Residents whose homes have 60-amp service and disconnect are grandfathered into compliance and not required to upgrade unless they do electric work on their homes or, like Garrett, disconnect power.
The city’s main concern is putting disconnects in the 30 or 40 Lampasas homes that presently have none at all, Bunting said.
City Manager Finley deGraffenried said residents should call City Hall to make sure their homes are in compliance.