Consultant hired to help with Shelton High fire code issues

The city will hire an outside consultant to help with remaining fire code compliance issues at Shelton High School (SHS).

The Board of Aldermen has voted unanimously to pay $26,000 to Pierz Associates of Wethersfield to help the city rectify and show compliance with state fire code requirements.

A 2012 report by the state fire marshal’s office found 579 violations at SHS, but the city has since rectified many of those violations. Some still remain, however.

The aldermen had previously approved a contract with another consultant, but Corporation Counsel Thomas Welch said the city couldn’t come to terms with that outside entity. That other consultant was to be paid $27,000.

Welch said the SHS Code Compliance Building Committee’s goal is to get as much of the remaining work done as possible this summer, when students are not in school.

Is a consultant really necessary?

Some aldermen questioned the need to use a consultant for the work.

Alderman Noreen McGorty said she thought the city already had extensively studied the problems and knew what steps had to be taken. “It’s time to get it done — to proceed,” McGorty said.

Alderman Jack Finn said the city has five certified fire marshals and deputy fire marshals who conduct inspections in the city, and also has received reports on the SHS fire code violations from the state fire marshal’s office.

Yet now, Finn continued, “we’re hiring someone for $26,000 to review” what the state marshal already has said needs to be done.

“I don’t understand why our local fire marshal’s office with four or five employees can’t get the job done,” Finn said.

“This is six years after the fire, and we’re still reviewing it,” he said, referring to a fire at SHS that brought attention to fire code issues at the school.

Alderman John P. Papa said it isn’t a case of the city fire marshal’s office not being able to get the job done, but of having an expert to make sure the situation is rectified correctly.

Working with the state

Alderman John F. Anglace Jr., board president, said Pierz Associates is acceptable with the state fire marshal’s office and has worked with that office on various matters.

Anglace said Pierz Associates can let the SHS Code Compliance Building Committee “know what is acceptable by the state.”

The remaining compliance work involves issues best handled by a firm with expertise such as Pierz Associates, he said.

“I don’t think our local people can help,” Anglace said. “You’re talking about a very complicated situation.”

He emphasized the city now is beyond the review phase with issues at SHS, and is focusing on the actions needed to reach compliance based on the state fire marshal’s report.

That prompted McGorty to comment, “Let’s get to the get-it-done phase.”

Finn also asked several times for a time frame on the consultant’s work.

“He’ll be with us as long as it takes to get the job done,” Anglace said, who also told Finn he would provide a written document on why an outside firm is needed in this case.

Lauretti backs hiring outside help

During a later interview, Mayor Mark Lauretti said the consultant is needed to make sure the SHS sprinkler system will meet state requirements.

“It’s about interpretation of the codes, and working with the state fire marshal’s office to do that,” Lauretti said.

Lauretti said school sprinkler system compliance with state requirements is not a primary focus of the city fire marshal’s office. “It’s not their area of expertise,” he said.