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State fire marshal sides with Town on sprinkler system

A state fire marshal agrees with the Town of Pulaski that a sprinkler system should be included in the train station rebuild.
Claude O. Hutton, senior deputy state fire marshal for the Western and Southern regions of Virginia, said in an e-mail that it is his opinion the building code allows the owner of the building to use an occupancy calculation of one person per seven square feet of space.
“To require a larger occupant load would limit the owner’s use of the building,” Hutton states in the e-mail.
The town’s insurance carrier, Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Risk Management Programs, contends the prior use of the train station as a museum is the equivalent to a library reading room, which has a building code occupancy rate of one person per 50 square feet.
However, Town Manager John Hawley told Pulaski Town Council Tuesday night that Hutton indicated placing such a limit on the occupancy of the building would be the equivalent of requiring the town to receive a building of less value than it was prior to the fire because its uses would be drastically limited.
Hawley said Hutton indicated the fact the items contained in the museum prior to the fire could be removed from the building meant the building could have been used for any number of purposes.
The town had already voted to construct a separate building for the museum and use the train station for other purposes, including community gatherings and meetings, prior to the November fire.
The town had used a figure of one person per five square feet (for standing room) in figuring occupancy of the train station prior to the fire.
But, even if the higher occupancy rate of seven proposed by the state fire marshal is used, the occupancy would exceed the rate of 300 that requires a sprinkler system.
VACo Risk Management and a Georgia consulting firm it hired to review the situation contend the occupancy of the building prior to the fire was 176 people. The consulting firm, In-Line Consulting LLC, describes itself as a full-service loss estimation and construction consulting firm.
It is the insurance company and consulting firm’s opinion the occupancy limits in each room of the train station prior to the fire were:
• Community room, 145.
• Office, two.
• Reception, exhibit area, nine.
• Model train room, two.
• Raymond F. Ratcliffe Museum, 18.
The town’s calculations were as follows:
• 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.
Hawley said he doesn’t know whether the opinion of the state fire marshal will have any impact on the insurance company’s ruling.
He said plans for the town to start taking bids on the rebuild soon, with the sprinkler system being bid as an option.
If the insurance company still refuses to cover the cost, it will be up to town council to decide whether to cover the cost of the fire suppression system or whether to pursue the matter in court.
Choosing to rebuild without any sprinkler system will severely limit the town’s use of the train station, the town manager added.
Under the town’s policy, the insurance company is required to cover costs of restoring the building to its prior use, as well as any necessary code upgrades.
It is the town’s position the sprinkler system is a required code upgrade. The insurance company disagrees.

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State fire marshal sides with Town on sprinkler system

A state fire marshal agrees with the Town of Pulaski that a sprinkler system should be included in the train station rebuild.
Claude O. Hutton, senior deputy state fire marshal for the Western and Southern regions of Virginia, said in an e-mail that it is his opinion the building code allows the owner of the building to use an occupancy calculation of one person per seven square feet of space.
“To require a larger occupant load would limit the owner’s use of the building,” Hutton states in the e-mail.
The town’s insurance carrier, Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Risk Management Programs, contends the prior use of the train station as a museum is the equivalent to a library reading room, which has a building code occupancy rate of one person per 50 square feet.
However, Town Manager John Hawley told Pulaski Town Council Tuesday night that Hutton indicated placing such a limit on the occupancy of the building would be the equivalent of requiring the town to receive a building of less value than it was prior to the fire because its uses would be drastically limited.
Hawley said Hutton indicated the fact the items contained in the museum prior to the fire could be removed from the building meant the building could have been used for any number of purposes.
The town had already voted to construct a separate building for the museum and use the train station for other purposes, including community gatherings and meetings, prior to the November fire.
The town had used a figure of one person per five square feet (for standing room) in figuring occupancy of the train station prior to the fire.
But, even if the higher occupancy rate of seven proposed by the state fire marshal is used, the occupancy would exceed the rate of 300 that requires a sprinkler system.
VACo Risk Management and a Georgia consulting firm it hired to review the situation contend the occupancy of the building prior to the fire was 176 people. The consulting firm, In-Line Consulting LLC, describes itself as a full-service loss estimation and construction consulting firm.
It is the insurance company and consulting firm’s opinion the occupancy limits in each room of the train station prior to the fire were:
• Community room, 145.
• Office, two.
• Reception, exhibit area, nine.
• Model train room, two.
• Raymond F. Ratcliffe Museum, 18.
The town’s calculations were as follows:
• 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.
Hawley said he doesn’t know whether the opinion of the state fire marshal will have any impact on the insurance company’s ruling.
He said plans for the town to start taking bids on the rebuild soon, with the sprinkler system being bid as an option.
If the insurance company still refuses to cover the cost, it will be up to town council to decide whether to cover the cost of the fire suppression system or whether to pursue the matter in court.
Choosing to rebuild without any sprinkler system will severely limit the town’s use of the train station, the town manager added.
Under the town’s policy, the insurance company is required to cover costs of restoring the building to its prior use, as well as any necessary code upgrades.
It is the town’s position the sprinkler system is a required code upgrade. The insurance company disagrees.

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