Great Neck Library renovations hampered by fire alarm improvements

Christian Araos

County-mandated improvements to the Great Neck Library’s fire sprinkler system continue to frustrate construction contractors and the library’s building advisory committee’s members as renovations to the Main Branch continue.

The Nassau County Fire Marshal’s office mandated that construction crews at the library install 36 additional fire alarms to comply with building code, Russell Davidson, president of KG&D architects, said at the committee’s meeting on Thursday.

“We’re fighting some unknown law here on how we space the fire alarms,” Davidson said.

Davidson said he was told of a rule that required fire alarms to be spaced 15 feet apart in each room by the vendor for the fire alarms. 

But, he said, he was unable to find where the rule was published and is seeking to contest the vendor’s findings. 

Committee member Marianna Wolgemuth cited her experience with a previous project as evidence that arguing with the fire marshal would be to no avail.  

“You can argue up the cazoo but you’re going to lose,” Wolgemuth said. “There’s nobody to appeal to.”

According to Nassau County assistant fire marshal Michael Uttaro, libraries and other large public spaces are subject to NFPA 72, the provision set by the National Fire Protection Association specific to mass alarm systems. 

Uttaro said any fire alarm system in Nassau County has to be in line with NFPA 72 in order to be approved by the fire marshal. 

“The requirement is that a smoke detector has to be at least four inches off a wall and a max of 15 feet off the wall and max 30 apart,” Uttaro said. “That’s the basics when you talk about a big open floor plan like a library.”

To date, the committee has approved more than $400,000 in improvements to the library’s fire alarm system. Those costs alone have taken up most of the contingency budget set for the library’s repairs according to documents from Calgi Construction Management, the firm the library board hired to manage the renovation project. 

Davidson said he will continue to negotiate and the fire marshal to see if there is a way to reduce the amount of additional fire alarms needed for the library and the costs that come with it. He admitted that the delays and the negotiations have been frustrating.

“We’re at the whim of the fire marshal,” Davidson said. “Fire marshals have a lot of power.”

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Christian Araos

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