BERLIN – Over the objections of the fire prevention industry, the Town Council enacted legislation exempting the town from regulations that would require new construction of single family homes to include fire sprinklers.
They elected not to exempt duplexes from the International Residential Building Code regulations that become law on Jan. 1.
John Kotowski, representing the Eastern Shore Builders Association, made a final appeal against the legislation. “Smoke detectors are what save lives,” he said.
Resident Ron Cascio said that while the county should vote against the measure because of cost and the lack of municipal water available, he did not support a total exemption in Berlin.
Cascio said single family homes should be exempted because it’s an unfair imposition on the homeowners. Instead, he suggested duplexes shouldn’t be exempt because one family is held subject to another’s behaviors.
“Due to a neighbor’s incompetence or foolishness,” he said. “The neighbor next door, their property and lives could be held at risk.”
No one spoke in favor of the regulations.
The council approved the measure 4-1 after Councilman Troy Purnell moved to pass the measure with an amendment exempting only single-family dwellings. Councilwoman Lisa Hall voted in dissent.
The council adopted new standards that would allow existing service lines to be used in residences that elect to have fire sprinklers installed. The standards are an allowance and not a requirement, meaning that if the company installing the system would be allowed to, in conjunction with the town water resources department, decide to use the lines a given house already has in place.
Auditors from Pigg, Krahl Stern gave the town’s financial reports an unqualified opinion, the highest assurance that the municipality’s financial reporting meets required standards.
Berlin Director of Finance Lynn Musgrave responded to the procedural criticisms the auditors offered, outlining the town’s actions or plans of action that addresses the shortcomings the auditors found.
The criticisms had to do with expenses posted in the wrong months, timeliness of bank reconciliations, and accounts receivable issues. Many of the auditors’ concerns will be solved as the town’s new accounting software continues to be implemented. All of the billing software, Musgrave said, is expected to be fully integrated by the end of the calendar year.
Other concerns raised over the use of town credit cards, specifically gasoline cards, Musgrave said, will be addressed with tighter controls. Failing that she said the town will revoke a card’s use if the employee in question isn’t properly following use procedures.
Musgrave assured Williams that the audit report would be greatly improved by the time of the next audit and would report to the mayor and council about her department’s progress at meetings when the council reviews the financials. The council reviews financials at the second meeting of the month.
She also confirmed to Williams that the corrections will be mostly in place before the end of the fiscal year so it will be reflected in the next audit.
New Year’s Eve Party
The council approved a request for a New Year’s Eve street party including a ball drop at midnight.
“I really like the idea that this can extend our Victorian Christmas celebration another week,” Mayor Gee Williams said. He expressed hope that the event can be extended next year into the late afternoon to accommodate a First Night-type family celebration.