TANEYTOWN — City Council members say they don't challenge the need for sprinklersystems in buildings, but after months of debate, the panel has decided the tools are not in place to enforce a law requiring such systems.
The council Monday rejected proposed revisions to the existing ordinance, then repealed that law, which requires sprinkler systems in new commercial buildings, renovated structures and town houses and duplexes.
"I think sprinklers need to be in Taneytown," said Councilman Thomas J. Denike, the panel's most vocal proponent of the fire prevention system. "I don't think we're ready for it. We don't have the wherewithal in place to enact (an ordinance)."
The proposed revisions, which would have set guidelines for the installation of sprinkler systems in new buildings and renovations, were rejected, 4-1.
The mayor and the five-member City Council have been debating the revisions for months.
Council members said the city does not have the personnel to adequately and effectively inspect buildings and homes to make sure sprinkler systems were functioning properly.
Denike said he had hoped a city manager would have been in place by now to research an effective sprinkler system ordinance. However, James M. White, a Montgomery County businessman selected for the position, has withdrawn because of family concerns. (Please see Carroll capsule, Pages 7-8).
Denike has asked the council to set a time frame to reinstitute a sprinkler ordinance.
The existing ordinance was repealed on a 4-1 vote. Councilman James L. McCarron was the lone dissenter on each vote. He said the proposed revisions to the ordinance addressed businesses' and developers' concerns about the cost of fire prevention by allowing either sprinkler or fire alarm systems.
Council members saidthe repeal would not affect businesses that have installed sprinklers since the ordinance was enacted earlier this year. Those businesses, they said, were following state requirements for sprinklers in new commercial buildings, renovations and multifamily dwellings.
Carroll County follows the state's guidelines and regulations.
The revisions would have required sprinkler systems in new commercial buildings containing more than 8,500 square feet in a single-story building and more than 10,500 square feet in a multistory building.
Sprinklers also would have been required in new town houses and duplexes. New single-family homes would have been required to contain sprinkler systems beginning in 1996.
Renovated buildings would have had to include automatic fire alarm or sprinkler systems when an alteration orrepair involved more than 50 percent of the structure.
"There areso many loopholes," Councilman Henry C. Heine Jr. said.
He said if a businessman wanted to renovate he could avoid installing a sprinkler or fire alarm system by making alterations at less than 50 percent over a period of time.
"I'll never have to comply with this ordinance if I'm smart enough," Heine said. "It seems useless to put it in the books with so many loopholes."
Denike said there were two places especially in need of sprinkler systems: single-family homes, where statistics show most fire deaths occur, and multifamily dwellingsdowntown.