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Alexandria keeps sprinkler rules in place

On a split vote, the Alexandria City Council decided to keep its existing sprinkler system requirements, which are more stringent than the state building code, in place.

On a split vote, the Alexandria City Council decided to keep its existing sprinkler system requirements, which are more stringent than the state building code, in place.

The council has been considering a motion to repeal the stricter rules, known as Chapter 1306, for months and it was tabled at two meetings before it was defeated Monday night. Todd Jensen, Dave Benson and Bobbie Osterberg voted against it while Virgil Batesole and Bob Kuhlman voted for it.

Jensen said compassionate arguments could be made on either side of the issue but for him, it came down to safety.

"If we make a mistake on this, I'd rather err on the side of public safety," he said.

Batesole said that according to the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, a number of businesses have decided not to build here because of the additional sprinkler system rules.

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"We must increase our revenue from small businesses," he said.

Kuhlman said Chapter 1306's requirement to install sprinkler systems in buildings as small as 2,000 square feet hampers small businesses. He said the city should allow small businesses to grow until they meet the state building code's threshold for needing sprinkler systems - 9,000 square feet.

Osterberg said that according to information from the fire chief, Chapter 1306 requirements have impacted very few businesses locally. Most would have had to meet the building code anyway, she said.

Although no public hearing was held Monday,resident Darrell Johnson spoke at the public comment period at the start of the meeting and urged the council to repeal Chapter 1306. He said the sprinkler requirements make "total sense" for buildings where people are living and sleeping but add too much to the cost of doing business in Alexandria.

Chapter 1306 was originally developed by fire chiefs who wanted to decrease fire losses. A total of 55 communities in the state have adopted it. It kicks in when the use of the building changes or when a new building is constructed.

It applies to:

• Assembly-type occupancies, such as theaters, banquet halls, bars, art galleries, churches, arenas, libraries, courtrooms, funeral parlors and other high-occupancy buildings. Chapter 1306 requires all such buildings to be sprinkled, regardless of size. The state building code generally starts requiring sprinkling at 5,500 square feet.

• Office, professional and service-type buildings, such as banks, vehicle showrooms, clinics, a doctor's or dentist's office and others. Also in this category are factory and storage uses. Chapter 1306 requires sprinkling for buildings that are 2,000 square feet or more. The state building code generally starts requiring sprinkler systems at 8,500 or 9,000 square feet for these kinds of buildings.

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• Educational-type buildings serving students through the 12th grade, such as elementary, middle and high schools. Chapter 1306 starts requiring sprinkling at 2,000 square feet while the building code generally starts at 9,500 square feet.

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIA CITY COUNCIL
Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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