The city is amending its building code to require detectors for the dangerous gas in all new apartment complexes, hotels, motels, boarding houses and dormitories.
The city also wants to mandate detectors when remodeling is done on existing residences, including single-family homes, built after Jan. 1, 2005.
The proposed changes come a few months after McQuen Forbush, a Marine who was visiting his mom and girlfriend while on a break, died after fewer than three hours in a residence at the Sagecrest Apartments.
Forbush's girlfriend, Breanna Halowell, also suffered carbon monoxide poisoning but survived. She told responding officers that she and Forbush became nauseous and crawled on the floor trying to help each other, according to a police report covering the Nov. 10 incident.
"Breanne said she fell asleep because she couldn't stay awake," the report states. When she awoke about 10 hours later, she was unable to rouse Forbush and called for help.
Bruce Freckleton, development services manager for the city of Meridian, said Forbush's death heightened awareness about the dangers of CO.
"But it's a situation that's certainly bigger than Sagecrest," Freckleton said. "It's not just a Meridian or Idaho issue."
International building and residential codes - which set minimum standards for cities - require that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in new single-family homes and duplexes. That will change next year, when international codes require detectors in all places - dormitories included - where people reside.
Freckleton said Meridian officials aren't waiting.
"It's something we feel like we need to address, for the life and safety of our residents," he said.
Forbush died in an apartment where numerous conditions led to the gas water heater not venting properly, thereby allowing gases to fill the apartment, according to a state inspector.
PUTTING FURNACESIN THE GARAGE
Meridian's proposed ordinance also would require that in new construction, gas water heaters be outside the living space.
In cases where water heaters, furnaces or gas-fired fireplaces are installed within living spaces, they would have to have "direct venting," a piping system that ensures a safe flow of air into the heater as well as out.
Homes built since 2005 would have to meet the same rules if they undergo remodeling that requires a permit.
The year 2005 is important because that's when Idaho code required new air-tight, energy-efficient home construction. Because modern homes permit less air flow, they are more likely to create conditions in which exhaust gases can be sucked back into the living space.
The new Meridian rules would not apply to dryers, stoves or ovens, which are less likely to create hazardous CO conditions,
Freckleton said the Meridian code would be the first of its kind in Idaho and is being watched by other cities. State legislators and other regulators also are looking at new carbon monoxide rules for gas-fired appliances in new construction.
CARBON MONOXIDE MEETINGS
After Forbush's death, Sagecrest residents contacted officials about their prior concerns with elevated levels of carbon monoxide, according to the Meridian police report.
Meridian fire officials were asked by the apartment managers to do informational meetings about carbon monoxide detectors. They did 20-minute presentations over three nights last year, said Perry Palmer, deputy fire chief.
"We had a really good turnout - about 80 percent" of residents, Palmer said.
The 48 four-plexes at Sagecrest have different owners. Palmer said some opted to replace existing water heaters.
A representative of Verity Property Management - the new managers for Sagecrest - said Wednesday afternoon that company officials authorized to speak had left for the day.
Deputy Meridian Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea said Wednesday that police are not pursuing criminal charges in the Forbush case. But a civil suit is pending, according to Eric Clark, an attorney for Forbush's family.
In January, Clark filed petitions asking the 4th District Court to order the release of police and coroner records. He obtained those records.
He filed another petition last week seeking records from the Meridian Fire Department. Clark said Wednesday that he has not received those.
It's not clear whether all the fire department's records from the Forbush incident were included in the police report.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413