East Lansing Public Library is not protected against fires

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By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

EAST LANSING—The East Lansing Public Library was a major focus in Tuesday’s City Council meeting due to its lack of fire detection and suppression equipment. Donald Power was the first audience member to address the council, and he shared the concern he has regarding the library.

The East Lansing Public Library is a common destination both for East Lansing residents and MSU students.

“When I look at the library I am very concerned,” Power said. “First of all there is no sprinkler system to protect the million-dollar-plus collection of books. There never has been. Second the library has no fire alarm system either by light or sound.”

Power said he is especially worried about individuals who are physically impaired.

“I think about people with hearing impairment, and if we ever had a fire in that library, there is no way visibly or through sound to find those people and get them out,” Power said.

Councilwoman Ruth Beier said she, too, saw the danger in the situation.

“Other than a day-care center, it’s probably the worst building to not have an alarm, because it has people who are concentrating, people who are old and people who are young,” Beier said.

Beier said she could not believe a building like that could go without a fire safety system for so long.

“That building was built in the 1950s, but it was renovated in the mid 1990s and I was shocked,” Beier said. “I didn’t think you could get a permit and have a building renovated in the 1990s and not have a fire alarm.”

Power said he was aware the issue was being placed on the budget for this year, but stressed time is of the essence.

“It’s dangerous today. I realize that it’s in the budget, but I would say that the degree to which you could expedite the implementation of the fire system, ‘please do it,’” Power said. “People are at risk.”

Beier also said the issue needs to be resolved quickly.

“I am going to push to get it done quickly, because every day that remains open, it’s not safe,” said Beier, who is serving her first term.

Power said the council should not touch the library’s budget to install the fire safety systems.

All of the library’s vast collections are currently vulnerable in the event of a fire.

“This is something the city has an obligation to protect its buildings,” Power said. “It is no different than if the Police Department had a leak in the roof, you’re not going to charge (Police Chief) Juli (Liebler) for that.”

Beier said the library would not be financially responsible for installing the fire safety system.

“The general fund sets up a reserve for capital improvements in its building, and this would be a capital improvement,” Beier said. “So it wouldn’t come out of the library’s millage or their operating budget.”

City Manager George Lahanas said the city will hopefully get a portion of the fire alarm process done this year. He hopes the sprinkler portion, which is the more expensive portion, will be done next year.

Lahanas said, based on rough estimates from the Capital Improvement budget, the alarm system will cost $50 thousand and a sprinkler system will cost another $80 thousand. Lahanas also said his conversations with the Fire Marshall have made it clear that installing a dry suppressant to within a building of that size is too costly.

Lahanas said discussions on the Capital Improvement budget will take place throughout April. Approval of the budget in May before the fiscal year starts on July 1, 2014.

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