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School Board OKs Civic Center renovation without sprinklers as site for Central Office

By Bill ShortMillington Civic Center 3-27

The Millington School Board voted this week to renovate part of the Harvell Civic Center for use as the Central Office without adding a sprinkler system.
Board members took the action Monday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Don Holsinger and seconded by C. J. Haley. The motion was passed by a 5-2 vote, with Jennifer Carroll and Cody Childress dissenting.
Board Chairman Greg Ritter said the approval had been recommended by Dr. David Roper, superintendent of the municipal school system. It was based on a report sent to Roper on March 14 by David Hilsdon, owner of Hilsdon Engineering in Millington, and a letter he received on March 18 from Millington Fire Chief Gary Graves.
Hilsdon’s report was an architectural and engineering evaluation of the “suitability” of two options for space to house the school system’s Central Office.
He noted that the administrative staff is currently leasing a 1,000-square-foot space in the Millington Industrial Development Board building on Veterans Parkway. While acknowledging that this location was “adequate for initial purposes,” he stated that the “aggressive time schedule” set by the administration to meet its staffing goals will require a larger office space in the “near future.”
Hilsdon described the second option as a “stand-alone,” two-story, 12,480-square-foot building at the Civic Center.
He noted that, before the city purchased the Civic Center from the First Baptist Church of Millington, that building was used for church day care and nursery operations. It was most recently used by the YMCA.
At its March 10 meeting, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to offer this building “free of charge” to the school system with a quitclaim deed.
Hilsdon noted that, prior to occupancy, the school system would have to pay the initial renovation cost, which is estimated at $75,000 without the addition of sprinklers. If a sprinkler system was required, the cost estimate would include an additional $50,000.
Although there would be no monthly lease cost for the building, Hilsdon noted that the $75,000 renovation cost pro-rated over 60 months would be $1,250 a month. If a sprinkler system was installed, the monthly pro-rated cost would be $2,083 during the projected five-year period.
Hilsdon concluded that the Civic Center building is the more feasible of the two options.
While citing the estimated costs, he noted that the strength of the steel frame construction, along with the separated first- and second-floor exits, allow for easy movement of “non-bearing” partition, electrical, plumbing and mechanical elements.
Because of the larger building area, Hilsdon stated that his recommendation “holds true,” even if the addition of a sprinkler system is required.
In his letter, Graves stated that he had reviewed the applicable fire and life safety code requirements to occupy the Civic Center building. Noting that he met with Hilsdon on March 17, the chief said the engineer provided some “preliminary drawings,” as well as the school system’s intended use of the building.
Although the structure is classified as Business for use and occupancy, Graves said the school system operations will change that to a “less restrictive” Business class as defined by the Code.
Regarding the planned renovation, the chief stated that, based on the information he received from Hilsdon, there will be “no demolition or reconstruction” of the building’s “support members or elements.”
So, he determined that the occupancy classification and the intent of the Millington Municipal Code do not require the installation of an automated fire sprinkler system. He also said the International Building Code does not require sprinklers for buildings classified as Business.
While acknowledging that the planned “occupant load” for the Civic Center building does not make a fire alarm and detection system necessary, Graves “strongly” recommended the installation of one that meets National Fire Protection Association requirements.
He noted that, if a fire develops inside the structure and goes undetected for a period of time, conditions will “rapidly reach a point” that will prohibit an “aggressive interior fire attack.” Without any type of early detection, he said, there is the probability of the loss of “critical school data,” and the ability for “business continuity” will be compromised.
Graves also stated that all life-safety installations required by the Building or Fire codes would apply to the entire building, including the first and second floors.
“Dividing the life-safety installations into ‘phases’ to be completed at a later date is prohibited,” he wrote. “All required work must be completed before the occupancy permit is issued.”
The chief noted that, under the Business occupancy classification, the assembly or gathering of 50 or more people for “training, civic meetings or other such functions” is also prohibited. He said such a gathering would reclassify the building as Mixed-Use occupancy, and “more stringent” code requirements would apply.
Graves said at least two portable fire extinguishers must be provided for each floor. Their location would be coordinated with the fire department.
Where corridors and stairwells are required to have a fire rating, they must be free of “penetrations.”
Exit and emergency lighting must be provided as needed throughout the building. And all exit doors and pathways to open spaces away from the building must remain “operable” and free of obstruction.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Childress said he believes it would be “cheaper” to install sprinklers now rather than “down the road,” if they were required on the second floor for any reason.
But, citing the “50 or more people” regulation, Ritter asked what the board might do on the second floor that would require sprinklers.
“I’m just looking at it from the practical, safety standpoint,” Childress replied.
Holsinger said that, if the board spent an additional $50,000 right now, it would basically be “throwing away a teacher.”
“I definitely respect the concern for safety,” he noted. “But I don’t think we can afford to do that right now. I don’t think it would be wise.”

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