In Split Vote New County Board Votes to Consider Delaying Sprinkler Ordinance; Based on Last Election, Comm Hodge Says Citizens Don’t Want Rule Forced on Them.

Enforcement of an ordinance requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in all new single family dwellings beginning January 1st, 2011, was called into question once the County Commissioners got down to business after electing presiding officers.  The previous body adopted the regulation last June, but on this first day of business for the new Republican board, officials voted 3 to 2 to consider postponing the ordinance for up to six months as they need time to consider whether to keep the requirement. 

This Cecil Co. house was fully involved at the time the Fire Service was dispatched. Source Dave Campbell

The request, brought up by Commissioner Robert Hodge, resulted in an exchange with the professional staff about technicalities related to this action.  A public hearing is required to change the law since it’s already on the books and  the Licensing and Inspection Dept. is required is  required to enforce the requirement starting New Year’s day.  When permits are requested for projects beginning on that date, plan reviewers will check to see the fire suppression system is included.  Staff observed that there has been an increase in permit requests as builders get approvals before systems are mandated.  After working out these practical concerns, the county said it would hold a public hearing to consider a moratorium on Jan. 4 at 7 p.m.   

Questioning whether it was “the county’s role to make sprinklers mandatory on new construction,” Commissioner Robert Hodge said the board approved the rule because department heads had told  elected officials they “had no discretion in adopting the sprinkler” law.  He added that he now has a July opinion from the Attorney General’s Office and a letter from International Building Code authorities advising that local jurisdictions have considerable leeway as to whether to eliminate or revise the requirement found in the model codes.  Emphasizing that his introduction of this matter was “not based on the merit of sprinklers,” he questioned:  “Is it our role to make it mandatory on all new construction.  Based on the 2010 vote, citizens don’t want this forced on them.  They want to decide.”

As an alternative to the requirement for mandatory installation, the Commissioner suggested the county require builders to make the systems available at a reasonable cost so the buyer could decide on the installation.  “That way it is up to the homeowner.” 

People packed the standing room only first meeting of the new board, as an overflow crowd stood in the hallway.  Looking around the room, over half the audience easily identified as local fire service  representatives who had lobbied hard to get the law passed, the Commissioner observed if I’d know this was going to cause this kind of crowd, “I would have had 150 people here supporting this.”  Two former commissioners from the last board, Wayne Tome and Brian Lockhart, were standing in the audience. 

Since this is a workshop the public isn’t allowed to comment, but officials exchanged a few remarks.  “I think this is worthy of a lot more discussion, Commissioner Moore noted as Commissioner Dunn agreed.  “I voted for the ordinance in June and there was a fatal fire in my district over the weekend, so I haven’t changed my mind,” President Mullin said.

Once the vote was taken, over half the room emptied out as the fire service representatives talked about the motion out in the hallway.  They noted how the National Fire Administration’s had determined that residential occupancies should be equipped with sprinkler system to save lives, how there had been no loss of life in Prince Georges County homes equipped withthe supression systems, and much more.

When the vote was called on whether they should consider a moratorium of up to 6 months Commissioners Dunn, Hodge, and Moore voted in favor of considering a delay.  President Mullin and Commissioner Broomell were opposed to the action.  Thus with this first step passed, the board will formally consider a moratorium on January 4th at 7 p.m., as this change in the law needs to be advertised and a public hearing held before a ratifying vote can be taken.

MD. State Fire Marshal's Office Map Showing Implementation of Sprinkler Ordinance as of Sept. 2010

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6 responses to “In Split Vote New County Board Votes to Consider Delaying Sprinkler Ordinance; Based on Last Election, Comm Hodge Says Citizens Don’t Want Rule Forced on Them.

  1. Hodge had been determined to stop this important life saving rule from the start for his developer friends. While I didn’t support Tome, he was right on this and when he lost Hodge saw his chance again. It is wrong to do this for these developers that can afford it without any problem and it does save lives. Ask any of the firemen in the county. They know about these things. Also see what happened. Just like they said on the web Moore is will support Hodge on whatever he wants done. It looks like they were right on that but I was surprised that Dunn went along with them. Guess we will see what happens when people get a chance to say what is on their mind. We weren’t allowed to say anything when he brought it up. Funny that Hodge brought it up at the first meeting when the public isn’t allowed to say a thing.

    • Smokie Smigiel…The issue seems to be whether the FORMER Bd. of Commissioners was given correct information regarding their options. They were told that sprinklers were mandatory, when they were optional. As a loud proponent of citizens’ constitutional protection from government, you should understand the issue. Typically, you use the issue to attack your perceived enemies. Developers pass the additional cost on to the purchaser, whether it is an extra window, upgraded carpet, or brick veneer. As a professed Libertarian, you should agree that purchasers should decide how they spend their money. This action by the Bd. of Commissioners merely allows for more citizen input.

  2. Captain Custard, are you mocking me!? Do you know who I am!? I am Brevet General George Armstrong Custer, hero of the War Between the States and the best military commander ever! Don’t make a mockery of me!

    • Gen. Custer, I would never join the millions who have mocked you since Little Big Horn. We do however have something in common. My retirement from the frozen ice cream business signaled Custard’s last stand.

  3. Captain Custard,

    I am not Smokie the Bear. I don’t know who Smokie the Bear is nor do I care. Smokie’s Opinions are not mine but I respect them, nonetheless.

    When I take a public position on an issue you will know because I use my own name to do so. I have not taken a public position on this issue because I understood the matter to be just as you have indicated. The argument was that originally it was passed because of the false information that federal law required the passage of local legislation. It appeared that the majority of the board was going to get additional information about the procedure and federal requirements before moving forward. I applaud them for doing so.
    They are all competent individuals who will work their way through the questions and arrive at a well reasoned conclusion. I also think it should political sensitivity to postpone the question while so many were grieving over the recent deaths at Indian Acres, even thought the law would not have effected the campground had it been it effect.

    I agree with you statement that the builders will pass on the cost to the home buyers and that government is overly intrusive in our private lives. (I have less of a problem of mandating sprinklers in a nursing home or commercial building where consumers may be at risk, I still have concerns but they are less, than when dealing with private home owners.)

    You were also right in stating I am a libertarian who believes the individual homeowners should be allowed to make choices on what type of fire suppression system to use or not use.

    I am glad you were able to properly assess what my public stand would be based upon the positions I have previously argued on behalf of, that lets me know that I have done a good job of letting the public know where I stand politically.

    It is too bad you were in such a hurry to try to paint me as a hypocrite by assuming that I was Smokie the Bear. Why would you have even done that when you correctly knew what my real position should be based on my previous public stances? I don’t get it?

    I think both you and Smokie the Bear have interesting positions that will draw others into the debate. In the future though, please refrain from accusing me of being the author of positions you know are contrary to my known political beliefs.

    If you ever have a question about where I stand on an issue, just ask me I will be glad to share my thoughts with you. I have never been accused of being shy.

    Yours in public service,

    Delegate Mike Smigiel, Sr.

    • Del. Smokie Smigiel,
      People use their names when taking a public position, hence the term. You have just taken a public position because you stated that the matter is as I have indicated. Glad to see you compliment the Bd. of County Commissioners and hope that you will work with them. You ask why I assume that you are Smokie the Bear. I worked through the possibilities and reached a well reasoned conclusion. Smokie’s focus seemed to be attacking Hodge and Moore, his two favorite targets. Say hi to Dixie Bear for me.

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