Petitioners Force Vote On Fire Code

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A petition asking to place recent changes to the Town of Payson uniform fire code on the ballot has been filed by a group of local businessmen.

The petition specifically addresses changes to the code regarding automatic sprinkler systems that the group believes will add unreasonable costs to both new construction and renovation projects. "We keep piling on these bureaucratic things," said businessman Ray Pugel, one of the groups leaders, "and we just can't afford any more of them."

According to Payson Fire Chief John Ross, who recently met with the group, they object to amendments approved by the Payson Town Council at its Oct. 12 meeting that mandate automatic sprinklers for all new buildings 3,000 square feet or larger, that give building officials and the fire chief the option of requiring sprinkler systems in renovated buildings that increase the size of the structure by 40 percent or that cost over $500,000 to remodel, and that mandate sprinkler systems in existing homes that are increased in size by 40 percent or to a size greater than 3,000 square feet. "They decided this was a good place to draw the line," Ross said.

The fire chief defended the code changes. "Fire sprinklers are first line of defense for any fire department. They've been in existence for 50 years, and they've been proven to save lives and protect property," he said.

"We don't want anybody to get hurt," Pugel countered, "but these aren't the kinds of homes that burn down. We realize these changes were made with good intentions, but they just create too many roadblocks."

Ross understands where they're coming from. "They just want to send a message that we need to take a harder look at these kinds of things," he said.

Ross added sprinkler systems in commercial buildings pay for themselves in about five years, but residential systems take many years to pay off.

"John is just doing his job," Pugel added, "but how many homes burn down because they don't have sprinklers? We can only have what we can afford."

According to Chief Deputy Town Clerk Marci Huffman, 290 valid signatures are required to place the issue on the ballot.

In the meantime, the new fire code amendments are on hold.

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