Saratoga County

Malta plans effort to catch up on fire inspections

The town is acknowledging it has fallen years behind on required fire safety building inspections, t

The town is acknowledging it has fallen years behind on required fire safety building inspections, town officials said.

The Town Board is planning to hire at least one additional part-time fire marshal to improve its inspection record.

The town has had only one $4,000-a-year fire marshal for many years, even though the arrival of the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in 2009 has led to millions of dollars in new commercial development.

“The GlobalFoundries plant and all the spin-off growth has really created a new obligation for us that we have not kept up with,” said town Councilman John Hartzell.

Hartzell was part of a three-member committee that began looking at the fire inspection situation in January, and made its report this week.

Based on its recommendations, the Town Board voted Monday to increase the pay for the job to $12,000 annually, without specifying whether the money would go for one part-time hire or hiring two people.

“I would like to move quickly on it. We’re playing catchup,” said Town Supervisor Vincent DeLucia.

The board also voted to charge $40 for most of the inspections, which have been free. The town would charge $200 for inspecting businesses larger than 10,000 square feet.

The marshal will also be issued a tablet computer or similar device so inspection reports can be filled out in the field.

“This is long overdue,” said Councilman Timothy Dunn.

The committee study, which involved both the Round Lake and Malta Ridge fire chiefs and Fire Marshal Paul Parker, found that “nearly all of the town’s multiple dwelling and nonresidential occupancies’ (fire safety inspections) are behind schedule.”

Parker missed time last year due to professional and personal situations.

By state law, the town is required to inspect commercial or multi-occupancy structures either every year or every three years — but much of the newer development in town has never been inspected, according to town records. The report found that 242 properties — 89 percent of those needing inspection — are overdue for examination.

A 2009 consultant’s report noted the need for a better inspection system, though its primary focus was on the need for a new downtown fire station, which has since been built.

Fire inspections are designed to ensure places of public assembly, including businesses and restaurants, are safe. While they are intended to protect the public, the committee members also noted the town needs to be concerned about the safety of the volunteer firefighters responding to any alarms.

The inspections could also be done by the town’s three full-time code enforcement officers, but the report found that their time is consumed by the demands of inspecting new construction. One of the three code officers is assigned full-time to GlobalFoundries, the $12 billion computer chip plant that has its own highly specialized construction inspection needs.

The committee’s recommendations are based on what’s done in Halfmoon, a larger town that also has nearly twice as many commercial properties. There, one full-time code enforcement officer spends most of his time on fire inspections, and uses a portable computer in the field. Halfmoon also charges $40 for the inspections, and officials said told Malta officials that few businesses object to the fee.

“What happened was a big help,” said town Planning and Building Director Anthony Tozzi, who said he’s been pushing for the fire inspection backlog to be addressed.

It isn’t yet clear when a new round of fire inspections will start.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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