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Complaint waged against Indiana baby box

WOODBURN, Ind. (WANE) — An anti-baby boxes group has filed a complaint with the Allen County Building Department that alleges the box at the Woodburn Fire Department was put in illegally.

Jean Morrisey and Mike Morrisey on behalf of Massachusetts-based Baby Safe Haven New England filed the complaint on Wednesday. In a letter to Allen County Building Commissioner John Caywood, the Morriseys allege that a permit was never issued for the installation of the baby box at the Woodburn Fire Station.

The baby box at the station, located at 22731 Main St. in Woodburn, was installed in April 2016. It was the first baby box in the state of Indiana.

A baby box allows a person to safely and anonymously use the safe haven law, and leave a newborn at a fire department. The boxes have two doors with alarms and are heated on the inside by an incubator.

“We know for a fact that these so-called ‘baby boxes’ have never been put before a single regulatory agency, or have ever received a single regulatory compliance approval,” the Morriseys wrote in their complaint. “The agencies that must be contacted, and approved by, are the Underwriters Laboratory, The Federal Food And Drug Administration, and The Consumer Product Safety Commission. For installation in Woodburn – or in any building – the UL Listed, and the FDA regulatory compliance are a must have, and fully documented.

“Simple verbal statements must be backed by official paperwork that must be verified. We also request that all of this paperwork be then forwarded to us under a Freedom of Information Act request – because it is a public building and this investigation is a public action.”

The Morriseys argued in the complaint that without proper documentation, the baby box at the Woodburn Fire Station should be removed.

Caywood on Wednesday that his office had received Morrisey’s complaint. Caywood said he’s instructed Assistant Building Inspector Roger Clark to talk with the Maumee Township Trustee about the complaint and to inspect the box.

Caywood added that there is no record of a permit being pulled in relation to the project, but they need to determine if this type of construction required a permit in the first place.

Monica Kelsey, founder of the Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said that her agency was told two years ago that the baby box project would not require a permit. Kelsey confirmed that her agency is now working with the Allen County Building Department to make sure it is in compliance with building regulations.

Safe Haven Baby Boxes and the Morriseys have a history. Safe Haven Baby Boxes successfully sued Morrisey for slander, defamation, interference with contracts and harassment in Allen County court and was awarded an injunction in the case. A decision on the amount of damages that will be awarded is pending.

Baby Safe Haven New England fights for newborns to be left with a person at a hospital, fire station or police station.

If the building department finds the baby box project at the Woodburn Fire Station was in violation because there was not a building permit, Caywood said there would be some paperwork that would have to be completed and fines could be enforced.

It’s unlikely to be removed.