GORHAM — The Town Council amended a local ordinance last week to require that all new residential units, including one- and two-family homes, be equipped with fire sprinklers.

The panel’s vote was 5-2, with Vice Chairwoman Sherrie Benner and Councilor Suzanne Phillips opposed.

“It’s a life safety issue for firefighters,” Town Councilor Ronald Shepard said.

The revamped ordinance, renamed the Fire Suppression Systems Ordinance, takes effect on Oct. 5. A sprinkler permit will cost $75. In past meetings, an average home sprinkler installation was estimated at between $8,000 and $10,000.

The amended ordinance is aimed at saving lives, preventing injuries and property loss, and saving taxpayers the costs of hiring additional firefighters and constructing more fire stations in the growing town. The action follows months of meetings.

Under the old ordinance, only homes built in subdivisions without fire ponds were required to have fire sprinkler systems. About 260 Gorham homes now have sprinklers, according to Fire Department statistics.

Phillips favored allowing voters in a referendum to decide whether to approve the amended ordinance. A resident, Jed Taft, also favored a referendum and said he had concerns with the ordinance.

Benner said she’s hearing that people want to make their own decisions about whether to install sprinklers.

But Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre said: “It’s a council decision.”

An initial requirement for each new house to have a lockbox containing a house key was dropped.

The ordinance requires an annual inspection that may be conducted by homeowners who successfully complete a training class. Benner said a sprinkler system is complicated and the thought of a homeowner doing inspections scares her.

Lefebvre said the Fire Department could conduct training classes for homeowners twice or perhaps more often annually.

Every four years, or whenever a building changes ownership, the ordinance requires an inspection by a Maine-licensed sprinkler technician. A professional inspection could run $80-$125, according to an industry spokesman.

The quest for an updated sprinkler ordinance began with a Town Council workshop in February. Councilors discussed the issue in a July workshop and the board in August sent the measure to its Ordinance Committee for review and tweaking.

Robert Lowell can be contacted at 854-2577 or at:

[email protected]

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