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Carroll Valley votes no to in-home sprinklers

Danielle Ryan

(7/25) During the July 11 Borough Council meeting, members of the community, including members of several local fire companies, attended the Fire Sprinkler hearing in anticipation of the Boardís vote. After the hearing rolled over 45 minutes into the regular scheduled Council meeting, the Board voted to repeal the mandated in-home fire sprinkler systems in the Borough.

The fire sprinkler ordinance was re-visited at the end of 2016 after Carroll Valley Borough Council member Tyler Pyles asked the Council to reconsider the mandate. The ordinance was sent to the Carroll Valley Planning Commission who, in February, recommended that the Board continue to keep in-home sprinklers as a mandated item. However, the discussion didnít stop there.

Since the beginning of the year, members of the community, local businesses, local fire company volunteers and even outlying concerned parties have taken the time to share their input on the matter. As the ordinance previously stood, all one and two family dwellings and townhouses constructed in Carroll Valley were required to have an automatic sprinkler system installed. The installation of these systems adds a significant additional cost to homebuilders, ranging from $6,000 - $10,000 and higher. Unfortunately with this additional cost, realtors in the area have seen this regulation as a deterrent for several potential homeowners looking to build in Carroll Valley.

Local Real Estate Agents including Trish Rowe and Kim Mills, were present during several Borough Council meetings, and were avid in urging the Board to reconsider the regulation. They received feedback from consumers, and presented the Board with a petition with over 100 names representing those who want the choice to install the sprinklers. Mills noted that she has lost at least five individuals who were interested in building in Carroll Valley, but after evaluating the finances for the build, turned away from the Borough because the mandated sprinkler systems pushed the project well over budget.

The Borough of Carroll Valley is currently the only Borough in Pennsylvania that has in-home sprinklers as a mandated item. "The builders are staying out of the area, weíre losing people right and left due to this one item that no one else has in this area," said Trish Rowe. Rowe also mentioned that she has walked into several foreclosed homes that were ruined by misfiring of the sprinkler systems, which was ultimately due to improper winterization.

On the other hand, many see this item as a safety concern in place to benefit locals. During the February Council meeting, Fire Marshall, John Waters gave a presentation on behalf of the surrounding fire companies stressing the importance of this regulation. Fire Departments simply canít get to a burning home fast enough. Even on a good day, the Fire Department generally doesnít arrive on scene until nine minutes after receiving the 911 call. That isnít quick enough when a building reaches the doomed flashover point in only three to four minutes. "Carroll Valley is a leader," said Waters, "other Boroughís should follow suit and mandate in-home sprinkler systems."

All those in attendance who represented the surrounding fire departments agreed that it would be "taking a step backwards if the Borough chooses to repeal the ordinance." "Sprinklers buy time, time buys lives," was mentioned numerous times. Ultimately, fire safety isnít just a concern for residents; itís a concern for the firefighters who volunteer their time to help keep the Borough safe. As presented, Pennsylvania is the number one state in losing firefighters across the country. Fire department staff question why Carroll Valley would want to move backward when they were already ahead of other communities in saving lives with this ordinance.

Residents who spoke against mandated in-home fire sprinklers questioned Borough Council about the lack of sprinklers in the brand new Borough building. The fact that the Borough wanted to regulate this additional expense, while they themselves didnít follow the regulation seemed hypocritical to many.

In the end, Council voted four in favor, three opposed, and the ordinance repeal was passed. Borough Council member, Dan Patton, asked the Council to consider a replacement ordinance that would require an education portion on fire safety and sprinklers for builders in Carroll Valley.

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