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Town not giving up on sprinkler system

When it comes to protecting its new train station from fire, the Town of Pulaski doesn’t intend to give in without a fight.
Town officials are still trying to convince the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Risk Management Programs insurance representatives that a sprinkler system is a required code update for the new structure.
The insurance company contends the occupancy of the building prior to the fire was not sufficient to require a sprinkler system, so insurance should not have to cover the cost of installing a fire suppression system in the new building.
“Our policy says it will pay for code upgrades,” said Town Manager John Hawley.
“That’s what they told us two days after the fire,” Mayor Jeff Worrell added.
Hawley said the discussion between the town and insurance company is whether the sprinkler system is a code upgrade.
He noted that the insurer is basing its analysis of occupancy on the train station having been used solely as a museum prior to the fire.
In a July 1 letter to the insurance company’s claims manager, Hawley points out that the station housed the museum in the western portion of the building, but other areas of the station were used for other functions, including “a reception and exhibit area near the center, a small octagonal office for the Greater Pulaski Alliance, and a meeting and community room in the eastern portion.”
The letter goes on to say that the town’s building official and engineering department calculated the square footage for each section of the train station and based the occupancy of each section on those state code requirements.
The square footage and occupancy for each section included:
• Raymond F. Ratcliffe Museum, 935 square feet, 134 people.
• Model Train Room, 180 square feet, 12 people.
• Reception/Exhibit area, 375 square feet, 54 people.
• Office, two people.
• Community Room, 825 square feet, 165 people.
Based on these figures, the town estimates the maximum occupancy of the station prior to the fire was 367 people.
Hawley goes on to say that a sprinkler system wasn’t added to the building when the town started repairing the structure in 1988 because “the prior renovation was not substantial construction and only included replacing the room and interior wall covering and trim.”
Therefore, the building official and fire marshal “grandfathered” the building and did not require a sprinkler at that time.
“Due to the substantial rebuild that is now required,” the letter continues, “it has been determined by the fire marshal and building official to return the train station to its prior capacity, a sprinkler system would be required.
“It is the town’s understanding from our current policy, that any code upgrades that are required for occupancy are covered and therefore, the town expects VACo to honor the policy with the costs of the sprinkler system being covered under the policy.”
The letter requests a response within seven days of receipt of the letter so the issue can be resolved prior to advertising for construction bids.
Hawley said Tuesday the certified letter was picked up by VACo, but a response had yet to be received as of early Tuesday morning.
If the coverage still is denied, Hawley said it will be up to Town Council to decide whether it wants to “sprinkle the building.”
In the meantime, Councilman Joel Burchett Jr. has asked Hawley to find out whether the bid can be split up so that work can begin to get the station under roof before winter weather moves in again.
Hawley said he would check with the architecture firm, but he questioned whether it would be possible to move forward since the sprinkler system will have to be installed early on.

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Town not giving up on sprinkler system

When it comes to protecting its new train station from fire, the Town of Pulaski doesn’t intend to give in without a fight.
Town officials are still trying to convince the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Risk Management Programs insurance representatives that a sprinkler system is a required code update for the new structure.
The insurance company contends the occupancy of the building prior to the fire was not sufficient to require a sprinkler system, so insurance should not have to cover the cost of installing a fire suppression system in the new building.
“Our policy says it will pay for code upgrades,” said Town Manager John Hawley.
“That’s what they told us two days after the fire,” Mayor Jeff Worrell added.
Hawley said the discussion between the town and insurance company is whether the sprinkler system is a code upgrade.
He noted that the insurer is basing its analysis of occupancy on the train station having been used solely as a museum prior to the fire.
In a July 1 letter to the insurance company’s claims manager, Hawley points out that the station housed the museum in the western portion of the building, but other areas of the station were used for other functions, including “a reception and exhibit area near the center, a small octagonal office for the Greater Pulaski Alliance, and a meeting and community room in the eastern portion.”
The letter goes on to say that the town’s building official and engineering department calculated the square footage for each section of the train station and based the occupancy of each section on those state code requirements.
The square footage and occupancy for each section included:
• Raymond F. Ratcliffe Museum, 935 square feet, 134 people.
• Model Train Room, 180 square feet, 12 people.
• Reception/Exhibit area, 375 square feet, 54 people.
• Office, two people.
• Community Room, 825 square feet, 165 people.
Based on these figures, the town estimates the maximum occupancy of the station prior to the fire was 367 people.
Hawley goes on to say that a sprinkler system wasn’t added to the building when the town started repairing the structure in 1988 because “the prior renovation was not substantial construction and only included replacing the room and interior wall covering and trim.”
Therefore, the building official and fire marshal “grandfathered” the building and did not require a sprinkler at that time.
“Due to the substantial rebuild that is now required,” the letter continues, “it has been determined by the fire marshal and building official to return the train station to its prior capacity, a sprinkler system would be required.
“It is the town’s understanding from our current policy, that any code upgrades that are required for occupancy are covered and therefore, the town expects VACo to honor the policy with the costs of the sprinkler system being covered under the policy.”
The letter requests a response within seven days of receipt of the letter so the issue can be resolved prior to advertising for construction bids.
Hawley said Tuesday the certified letter was picked up by VACo, but a response had yet to be received as of early Tuesday morning.
If the coverage still is denied, Hawley said it will be up to Town Council to decide whether it wants to “sprinkle the building.”
In the meantime, Councilman Joel Burchett Jr. has asked Hawley to find out whether the bid can be split up so that work can begin to get the station under roof before winter weather moves in again.
Hawley said he would check with the architecture firm, but he questioned whether it would be possible to move forward since the sprinkler system will have to be installed early on.

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