Frostburg officials must decide on home sprinkler systems
Like Cumberland, city has thus far opted out of state requirement
Kristin Harty Barkley Cumberland Times-News
FROSTBURG — City officials are expected to decide next month whether to require residential sprinkler systems in new family homes and duplexes as part of amended building code.
Frostburg, like Cumberland, has opted out of the state requirement in previous years because of concerns that higher building costs might drive away developers. How to enforce the code has also been an issue here and elsewhere in the state.
Maryland adopted the International Residential Code in 2009 and is one of three states that mandate sprinkler systems. California and South Carolina are the other two states, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.
“This was always optional up until 2009,” director of community development Richard Harris told Frostburg Council at Thursday night’s meeting.
“The reception around the state at that time was fairly mixed. Some decided to keep it the way it was, leaving the option to builders whether to include the sprinkler system. At this point in time, I would say it’s slowly making progress toward acceptance, however there are still parts of the state that prefer to see this optional. Western Maryland is one of those sections,” he said.
In February, representatives from the State Fire Marshal’s Office encouraged Frostburg’s mayor and council to approve the sprinkler code, saying it saves lives. The city’s 3/4-inch residential water service would have sufficient pressure to operate the systems, chief fire protection engineer Larry Iseminger said.
The cost of installing sprinkler systems can range from $2,500 to $10,000, estimates show.
The average cost is $1.14 per square foot (for properties on public water), and the national average cost is $1.61 per square foot, according to NFPA's Fire Protection Research Foundation.
Council is expected to vote on the matter next month, after public receiving public comment. A new code would be effective July 1, Harris said.
In other business at Thursday night’s meeting, council:
• Announced the appointment of a new director of community development to replace Harris, who is leaving the post after seven years.
Elizabeth Stahlman, who has served as the GIS manager for Allegany County government, is scheduled to start her new job on Monday. She was selected from among 12 applicants by a committee that included Harris, commissioners Brian Alderton and Walter Mackay, and city administrator John Kirby.
Harris is to be honored by the mayor and council during their April 19 meeting.
• Approved 4-0 an resolution to appoint S. Kristan Carter to the Frostburg Historic District Commission for a three-year term. Commissioner Don Carter was absent.
• Approved 4-0 a resolution to waive the open container ordinance for the Spring 2012 Arts Walk on Saturday, April 28 from 5 to 8 p.m., so that participating businesses can offer receptions including alcohol. The resolution allows participants to possess and consume alcoholic beverages on Main, Broadway, and Water streets during event, though glass containers may not be carried on the streets or sidewalks.
Main Street Manager Maureen Brewer said that the ordinance was waived for both Frostburg Arts Walks last year, and the “public and business response was very positive.” No major public safety issues were reported, she said.
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.