Cecil County Commissioners Meeting, Feb 8th, 2011 – The commissioners once again worked on legislative matters related to changing a section of the county code requiring the installation of sprinklers systems in all new single family dwellings. To kick off deliberations, Commissioner Hodge distributed a draft of language he is proposing. His colleagues mulled over the details on that as they worked with county’s code officials to understand the impact of the changes.
On the part of the draft ordinance that allows homeowners to opt out of having the automatic fire suppression systems installed, but requires contractors to make a good faith effort to inform clients about costs, benefits, and availability all members agreed on that change. While they mulled this over, Commissioner Hodge and Dunn both stated they didn’t believe the county should be dictating these types of safety requirements for single family dwellings.
But when they got around to sorting out language related to a duplex, that was a different matter. President Mullin and Vice-President Broomell argued that the life-saving technology should be mandatory for these types of dwellings, while Commissioners Hodge, Moore, and Dunn supported opt out.
That generated an extended discussion with three county building code officials as they talked about fire separations, fire walls, the definition of duplex, and how code changes in one place affect other sections. In some instances if something was changed in one area, it created different requirements elsewhere. An egress window was one example, the professionals pointed out. With the vote on this piece of the law standing at three to two in favor of opt out for a duplex, the only challenge was figuring out how to word the regulation.
Things were getting complex as they discussed how a fire wall had to meet certain rigorous standards, while the requirements for a separation was another matter. Then there were questions about what the changes did to other sections of the building code, the building staff remarked. It was growing tangled so the board handed it to the professionals to sort out. They’d heard the outcome the commissioners want, so they’re to draft language that supports that approach and bring it back for review.
In wrapping things up Commissioner Moore noted that her concern was with giving the homeowner the right to choose. “I’ve done my research and they are effective,” she added. “They save lives.”
There’s still plenty of work to be done on getting the code change completed to the satisfaction of the board, so this matter will be discussed at future meetings.