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Debate over the need for sprinklers continues with unofficial meeting

The City of Oxford’s Board of Aldermen held an unofficial meeting Monday morning to continue discussing a proposed change to the city’s fire codes that would require sprinklers in townhomes.

Originally, Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled to be an official meeting, however not enough aldermen were present to make it an official Board of Aldermen meeting.

This proposed ordinance change was struck off last week’s agenda by Mayor Robyn Tannehill, as the board wished to discuss it further.

During Tuesday’s unofficial session, Oxford-area architects were present and were able to ask questions about the proposed changes for clarity.

The meeting was also another opportunity for those against the changes to voice their concerns. Alderman Jason Bailey, who was vehemently against the proposed changes during a regular November 20th meeting.

During that November 20th meeting, Bailey cited possible water damage if sprinklers weren’t installed correctly. He argued that improperly installed sprinklers could cause over $100,000 in water damagers if they broke, as well as $6,000 more in basic building costs.

On Tuesday, he reiterated his concerns, citing the maintenance and installation of these sprinklers as the main problems.

“I don’t want these,” Bailey said. “I’m going to fight them tooth and nail.”

The argument against a need for sprinklers was because of a firewall most townhomes have. These can deter a fire for two hours before it spreads, while others only have a protection span of one hour, which is where the sprinklers would be required.

The meeting did discuss other options for mandating sprinklers, such as if a townhome has two floors or less if wouldn’t be required to have sprinklers as residents could jump to safety as a last resort.

However, if a townhome has three or more stories, it would be required to have a sprinkler system.

The unofficial meeting also took the time to define exactly what a townhome is: a single-family dwelling unit, constructed in a group of three or more detached units. These units extend from foundation to roof, and with a yard of public way on at least two sides of the building.