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Malta Must Not Weaken Sprinkler Law

Ashley Onyon’s Ballston Journal report (the news has apparently appeared nowhere else, as of yet) revealed that there are problems with the 2015 town of Malta law which requires sprinklers in new commercial construction.

I talked about the issue yesterday with four  Malta officials — Supervisor Vincent DeLucia, Building and Planning Coordinator Anthony Tozzi, Town Attorney Thomas Peterson and Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Company Chief Peter Shaw —  and can confirm that the law never went into effect, and thus was never enforced, and that its future is now up in the air.

Apparently in 2015 the town failed to file the right paper work in time in the right part of the state Department of State, which since then has been unable or unwilling to fix the problem. So the current Town Board is apparently going to rescind the 2015 law, but it’s unclear whether it will pass it again and file it properly with the state, or pass an amended version (either stronger or weaker), or just let it die.

Peterson asked for instructions on these matters at at Monday’s Town Board meeting, saying: “This is sprinkler systems in commercial buildings not otherwise required and it adds to the expense of building commercial buildings. It seems to be in conflict with the board’s desire to encourage commercial development, so I just want to make sure that we’re not heading down the road without having made the decision, it was a former board that made that decision.”

Councilman Tim Dunn was not sure how to respond, according to the Journal story, saying “he did not feel that he had enough information to make a decision, questioning the cost to developers and what the requirement actually calls for.

“’Is it one extra sprinkler? Is it per square footage? I have zero information on this, so it is very difficult to say. I want safe buildings, but I’d like to have more information,’ Dunn said.”

The upshot was that the board will seek more information, including, DeLucia said yesterday, from The Chazen Companies, the town’s engineering consultants. The supervisor said he was “generally” supportive of the 2015 law, and might even support a more stringent version, as proposed by the Malta Ridge fire chief, Shaw, that would include new single-family homes. But he also echoed Dunn in saying he wants to know what costs it would add for developers.

Given the Town Board’s recent actions in pressing full steam ahead for commercial development despite environmental concerns, it’s understandable that Peterson asked what it wants to do about the sprinkler law. The answer should be, especially given recent events in a nearby municipality, that it will not compromise public safety. That means, at a minimum,  not weakening the 2015 law, but passing it (or the stronger version favored by Shaw) again, filing it properly with the state, and putting it into effect.

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Reporter Bob Conner has worked 21 years in various positions at the Gazette of Schenectady, and before that four years as a reporter at the Glens Falls Post-Star. He won two first-place writing awards from the New York Associated Press Association for newspapers with circulation between 50,000 and 250,000. Bob has a Phi Beta Kappa bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University, and an associate’s degree in chemical dependency counseling from HVCC. He is a published author and is currently writing a historical novel about the last four months in the life of Ulysses S.Grant

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