2007-09-27 / Front Page

Volunteers can't keep up with fire code demands

By Tom Shevlin

The state's new fire code requirements have taken their toll on the town's fire inspectors, according to town officials.

Acting on the recommendations of Fire Chief James Bryer, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser reported this week that the town would be adding a full time position to account for the increased work load the town has experienced since the state adopted its new code.

Jamestown, which maintains a volunteer fire department, has been unable to meet the demand on a volunteer basis, according to Keiser.

In a letter sent to the Town Council, Keiser wrote that the town had been relying on volunteer help to satisfy fire code inspections. "While this approach has worked in the past, it does not provide the reliability or accountability necessary to effectively manage this function," Keiser wrote.

Currently, the fire department has an allocated line item budget of $5,800 for fire marshal-inspector duties. That position is filled by retired Fire Chief Arthur Christman.

Bryer recommended the town hire a part-time fire inspector at a rate of $20/hour for the remainder of the budgetary year, for a total of $16,640.

Because the fire department budget does not provide for the expenditure, Keiser has recommended that a departmental reserve of $11,000 could be used. The remaining $5,640 could be satisfied through fee revenue and under-spending on other budgetary line items. Going forward, Keiser reported that the position would require a projected expenditure of $26,000 for fiscal year 2008-09, to be included in the fire department budget.

The decision to bring on a fulltime inspector-marshal stems from a backlog of work yet to be completed, as required by the state's new stricter fire code regulations.

According to a Fire Inspector Workload Analysis submitted by town officials, the bulk of the outstanding work relates to commercial inspections. Commercial Line Safety Inspections account for a total estimate of 520 hours, or 125 units. Commercial Plan Reviews are estimated to take 624 hours for 100 units. In total, town offi- cials estimate that approximately 2,224 work hours will be required to perform the island's outstanding inspection and review duties.

The town currently has four licensed Assistant Deputy State Fire Marshals-Fire Inspectors: Chief Jim Bryer, Deputy Chief Howie Tighe, Captain Keith Godena, and Christman.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski asked if the town would continue to maintain the licensing and education requirements for all four positions. Bryer responded affirmatively saying that the town had never turned anyone down who has wanted education.

The matter, which is set to go into effect as soon as the job is advertised, will be reviewed again during next year's budget process.

At what was the last town council meeting at the Jamestown library, Council President David Long thanked the library on behalf of present and past councilors for their many years of hospitality.

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