A public hearing was held today at 9:32 a.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland on Code Home Rule Bill No. 4-2010, which is an Act to amend Chapter 73 of the Code of Public Local Laws of Kent County, titled “Building Construction” to update the Kent County Building Construction Codes, to the 2009 International Building Code, 2009 International Residential Code, and 2009 International Energy Conservation Code as modified by the State of Maryland and including the exemption of one and two family dwellings from the automatic residential fire sprinkler system requirement.
County Commissioners Roy Crow, Ronald Fithian, and William Pickrum were in attendance as well as Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, Gail Owings, Director of Planning, approximately 25 interested persons and three members of the media.
Commissioner Crow read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record.
Correspondence dated October 22 was received from Douglas Alexander, Chairman, Residential Sprinkler Committee, Maryland State Fireman’s Association, requesting that the Commissioners maintain the requirements for residential sprinklers in the 2009 International Residential Code. The Fireman’s Association feels that this measure will help to protect the lives of the citizens and firefighters of Kent County.
Correspondence was received from S. Richard Powell stating that sprinklers should be installed in all new homes, and not installing sprinklers in new homes would be putting volunteer fireman and families in danger.
Electronic correspondence dated October 15 was received from Jeff Thompson encouraging the Commissioners to keep the requirement for residential sprinklers included in the International Residential Code in order to save lives and properties.
Commissioner Crow read the rules of testimony.
The following comments were received from the audience:
Jason Smucker, local builder, requested that the Commissioners allow sprinkler installation to remain an option. He stated that the added cost to install a sprinkler system will negatively impact affordable housing in the County. Mr. Smucker added that when houses are built to code, as they should be today, there should not be issues relating to fire protection.
Larry Iseminger, Office of the State Fire Marshal, urged the Commissioners to reconsider exempting one and two family dwellings from the automatic residential sprinkler requirement. Mr. Iseminger provided a residential sprinkler price quote for the Commissioners’ information.
He informed that the average cost per square foot is approximately $1.50 (assuming public water is used.) The additional cost for a tank and pump for areas outside of public water systems would be approximately $1,500-$2,000 above the total square footage cost. This would total $4,500 for
sprinkler installation for a 2,000 square foot house. Mr. Iseminger stated that insurance companies estimate an 8-11% reduction in insurance for dwellings with automatic residential sprinkler systems. He encouraged the Commissioners to mandate this requirement.
John Hurley, Maryland State Fire Academy, stated that the cost to install sprinklers in a new home is equivalent to installing new carpet and/or granite countertops in a home. Mr. Hurley urged the Commissioners to leave the sprinkler requirement in the County Code.
Allen Schauber, Kent and Queen Anne’s County Rescue Squad, expressed support for the residential sprinkler requirement being included in the County Code. Mr. Schauber stated that the sprinkler systems are life saving and damage control devices. He commented that volunteer firefighters are experiencing difficulties with making their 8 minute response time, and sprinkler systems would assist with this time limit.
David Lewis, Maryland State Fireman’s Association, stated that home furnishings and building materials burn faster and hotter today and allow less time for safe evacuations. He stated that the adoption of mandatory sprinklers would be the right thing to do for the safety of Kent County’s citizens. Commissioner Crow questioned whether any studies had been completed regarding grants to assist with paying for sprinkler systems. Mr. Lewis was not aware of any studies or funding of this sort.
Jeff Thompson, Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, requested that the Commissioners vote against the sprinkler exemption. Mr. Thompson stated that fire fighter response times are declining and firefighter lives are being put in greater danger. He continued that it is a proven fact that sprinkler systems are an asset to the community.
Keith Vansant, Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, urged the Commissioners not to waive the sprinkler requirement, and provided examples of fire damage which has taken place in dwellings without sprinklers.
Bill Hildebrand, Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, urged the Commissioners not to exempt the sprinkler systems as they save lives and property damage.
Pete Lott, Kennedyville Volunteer Fire Company, expressed support of mandating the automatic residential sprinkler systems.
Trey Blackiston, Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, informed of a family whose home experienced a fire this morning. He stated that this disaster could have been prevented had the family had a sprinkler system installed.
Marion Townsend, Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, stated that he has seen many lives lost as a result of fire damage. He urged the Commissioners to consider the lives that will be saved by mandating sprinkler systems.
Jack Duhammell, Galena Volunteer Fire Company, informed that the GVFC is in support of the mandatory sprinkler systems and urged the Commissioners not to pass the exemption. He
stated that although there is an additional cost to install a sprinkler system, there is no cost or value that can be placed on a person’s life.
Jeff DuBrul, Kent and Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad, urged the Commissioners to reconsider passing this legislation as sprinklers save lives.
Rick Koch, Galena Volunteer Fire Company, expressed support of the sprinkler systems. He stressed the importance of safety for the fireman, and how sprinkler systems in homes provide greater safety for firemen and residents.
Antonio Leonardi, Kennedyville Volunteer Fire Company, stressed the importance of safety for firefighters. Mr. Leonardi urged the Commissioners not to exempt the sprinkler requirement for Kent County.
William Bickley, Emergency Services Board, expressed concern for the safety of volunteer firefighters who travel to fully involved homes as a personal citizen who has experienced a fire in his own home. Mr. Bickley stated that the EMS Board unanimously recommends that the Commissioners retain the sprinkler requirement.
Carter Brice, Eastern Shore Homes, stated that he is not opposed to sprinkler systems, but feels that it would be unfair to mandate the systems for those who are unable to afford the cost. He suggested that the Commissioners allow the sprinkler system to be an option for homebuilders in Kent County.
W. Faron Taylor submitted his concerns in writing for the record, as well as an article regarding the cost of residential sprinklers. Mr. Taylor expressed his opposition to the proposed legislation and urged the Commissioners to mandate residential fire sprinklers to enhance fire safety for citizens and firefighters.
Commissioner Fithian stated that the purpose for public hearings is to hear information to help make a proper decision. He expressed appreciation for those in attendance for assisting in the Commissioners’ decision.
Commissioner Crow advised that even if the Commissioners pass this legislation, individual municipalities within the County will be required to pass their own version of the legislation.
This hearing was taped for reference and adjourned at 10:34 a.m.
Written comments will be received until October 29, 2010 at 12:00 p.m.
Denisha C. Brown
Roy W. Crow, President