EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 2, 2012

Salisbury calls off fire watch, saves town over $1,000 a day

State denies it ordered firefighters to stand watch at 2 businesses

SALISBURY –” As of yesterday, Salisbury firefighters are no longer providing a fire watch at a local businesses at taxpayer expense, saving the town over about $1,000 a day.

Due to a snafu involving the incomplete connection of sprinkler systems at the businesses, beginning Sept. 7 one Salisbury firefighter had been stationed at each of two Route 110 businesses owned by Bruce Arakelian, the Sylvan Street Grille Restaurant and Vision Max movie complex, which have a total capacity of 1,980 people. As of yesterday the cost of that watch is estimated to be around $27,000 that the town of Salisbury picked up for Arakelian.

Town Manager Neil Harrington said the controversial watch was begun because Salisbury officials believed an official in the state Fire Marshal’s office had ordered it during discussions with Salisbury Building Inspector Dave Lovering. Harrington said yesterday’s watch removal came after Salisbury Fire Chief Rick Souliotis resolved any misunderstanding about the issue with the state Fire Marshal.

According to Jennifer Mieth, public information officer for the state Fire Marshal, in early September the Salisbury building inspector called the agency to discuss concerns about the lack of an operating sprinkler system at two related properties in town. The state Fire Marshal’s office denied that it ever ordered the town to put town firefighters on the watch.

“We then also reached out to the Salisbury fire chief to share the building official’s concerns,” Mieth said. “The decision to order a fire watch was made by local authorities.”

My understanding is it was taken as a precautionary measure until a final course of action could be determined.”

Neither of Arakelian’s buildings are fire hazard or unsafe and neither building is currently required to have sprinkler systems.

However, Arakelian decided to voluntarily upgrade the buildings by installing sprinklers throughout about three years ago. The controversial and expensive problem of the firefighter watch arose when town inspectors realized that the partially installed sprinkler system wasn’t connected to a water source.

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