Maine town in sprinkler clash

Friday, December 1, 2006

GRAY, Maine--The Planning Board in this small rural Maine town has taken to requiring sprinklers in new homes in subdivisions, even though it's not an official ordinance.
Some here say the planning board is "just suggesting, not requiring" that builders install sprinklers. Either way, the Town Council, which is the governing entity that appoints members of the planning board, is not amused.
It's reminded the Planning Board members more than once that they have no authority to enforce their "improvised [sprinkler] policy," and that they may not require builders to install sprinklers, said Town Councilor Alison Libbey.
The sprinkler spat has gone on for several months, and sprinkler proponents have apparently decided it's time to play by the official rules. According to Bob Ryan, Gray's deputy fire chief, the town's public safety committee "is working on a fire suppression ordinance."
Ryan was not aware of a timeframe for bringing the ordinance before the Town Council, but he believed they were working on a first draft of the ordinance.
Ryan, for one, is supportive of a sprinkler ordinance. "I think it's a good idea. Sprinklers do save lives," he said. Sprinkler proponents will have some work to do convincing the Town Council to support an ordinance.
Town Councilor Libbey said that she believes that the planning board "really believes [requiring sprinklers] is in the best interest of the people of the town," however, she is opposed to an ordinance and cites the cost of possible water damage as her reasoning.
Town Council chair Gary Foster is also opposed to a sprinkler ordinance, saying it's his understanding that insurance data shows that "more often than they save property they cause water damage."