Board of Aldermen debate over the need for townhome sprinklers

Oxford’s Board of Aldermen were skeptical of a proposed ordinance change that would upgrade sprinklers in Oxford townhomes during a public hearing after second reading Tuesday evening.

The Aldermen argued that improperly installed sprinklers could cause over $100,000 in water damagers if the sprinklers break, as well as cost $6,000 more in building costs.

This led Mayor Robyn Tannehill to ask if the safety the sprinklers would provide would offset the cost the sprinklers command.

Building Official Randy Barber presented the second reading of the ordinance, and noted that the updated sprinklers are in the new ordinance now because of the new number of townhomes in Oxford.

The ordinance would put sprinklers in all rooms of a townhome, including bedrooms, except for the attic.

Bailey, president and CEO of Summit Management Services in Oxford, said he dealt with the 14th improperly installed sprinkler last January and contended defective sprinklers are dangerous to townhomes than what was being presented to the board.

“A lot of times they’re not installed properly,” Bailey said. “We’re not talking about a little hairline crack from the supply line on a refrigerator, we’re talking about a one-inch line.”

Bailey said if a sprinkler broke, and a homeowner was unaware, the amount of water and pressure could cause $100,000 worth of damage in three minutes.

Alderman Mark Huelse also commented that he knew of city builders who weren’t in favor of the sprinklers because it also raised building costs by $6,000.

However, if the ordinance to add sprinklers were adopted, it would cost the city less in firewalls, which are simply fire-resistant barriers that prevent the speading of fire from one structure to another. Having a sprinkler in an Oxford townhome would allow the home to have a one-hour firewall instead of the required two.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill then posed the question: does the safety outweigh cost of the sprinklers.

Bailey did point out the sprinklers allow the Aldermen to worry more about the cost of property damage, rather than the potential of any fatalities.

“If they’re not there,” Bailey said. “Then we’re worried about somebody’s life.”

The Aldermen concluded that the ordinance chance would be read one more time at the board’s next meeting.