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Malta ready to implement sprinkler regulations

Malta ready to implement sprinkler regulations

The town of Malta is on the verge of requiring that all new commercial construction in town include

The town of Malta is on the verge of requiring that all new commercial construction in town include fire sprinklers.

The requirement, if adopted, would give the fast-growing Saratoga County town one of the strictest sprinkler codes in the state — stricter than what state fire code requires.

“This would require that all commercial buildings have sprinkler systems that comply with state code,” said Town Supervisor Paul J. Sausville. “New York state law doesn’t require that all commercial buildings have sprinklers.”

State law allows for stricter local laws, said state Department of State spokesman Laz Benitez, with a Codes Council convening to determine if the stricter code is justified by local circumstances.

“If the council finds that such higher or more restrictive standards are reasonably necessary because of special conditions prevailing within the local government and that such standards conform with accepted engineering and fire-prevention practices, the council may approve the standards,” Benitez said.

More than a dozen communities, including the Town of Guilderland, have had stricter sprinkler laws approved, according to the Department of State.

The law could be enforced while that decision was pending.

The proposed Malta law will be the subject of a public hearing at 6:55 p.m. Monday at the Town Hall. If there are no unanticipated objections, the Town Board is then expected to adopt the law.

The town, which is protected by two volunteer fire companies, has seen an increase in recent years in commercial and apartment construction, part of the boom that has followed the arrival of GlobalFoundries.

The law will apply whether public water is available at the commercial site or not.

Town officials had been talking about imposing new sprinkler requirements for at least five or six years, without action — but those efforts gained new focus after the downtown Dunkin Donuts was destroyed by fire in December 2013. The building did not have sprinklers despite including a bakery.

“It had been off the radar, and Dunkin’ Donuts kind of resurrected it,” said Malta Ridge Fire Chief Peter Shaw.

An ad hoc town fire protection services task force was formed after the fire. Its recommendations included establishing stricter sprinkler rules, particularly for new commercial construction.

Shaw said his original goal had been that all new construction — residential as well as commercial — be required to have sprinklers, though he realized that wasn’t politically realistic.

“Nationwide, it’s been recognized for awhile that sprinklers save lives and save property, both,” Shaw said. “It has been shown that they have a real impact. It buys time. By the time we get there, the residents or occupants have time to get out.”

Sausville said he’s heard no opposition to the proposed requirement from the business community, and the town’s firefighters strongly support it.

He said the topic first come up a few years ago, after a dispute with a developer who objected to the town asking him to install sprinklers when state law didn’t require it. The developer eventually agreed to install them after discussions with town officials.

“We decided that wasn’t the best way to go about it, to have to persuade people,” Sausville said.

Nothing came out of the Town Board discussions at that time. Sausville acknowledged the Dunkin’ Donuts fire rekindled interest.

“That would be a good example of why we have to have it,” Sausville said.

The replacement Dunkin’ Donuts, built last year on the same Route 67 site, has fire sprinklers.

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