Thursday, January 18, 2018

The old hospital has been empty since 2012, when the new Stillwater Billings Clinic was built. The old hospital remains connected to Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility.

“Fire and life” code violations found at old hospital by state

Notification letter sent to the commissioners in December not filed with courthouse project documents or disclosed to the public at recent meetings

An unserviced fire suppression system, electric wiring done without proper permit or done by a licensed electrician, no portable fire extinguishers, fire wall doors left propped open and the presence of an unattended 100-pound propane tank were among state fire code violations discovered at the old hospital last November by the state Fire Marshal.
A total of six violations were discovered in what began as the annual fire inspection at the Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility, which is attached to the old hospital.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Sally McKenna extended the Meadowlark inspection to include a “Fire and life safety walkthrough of the County Offices Building/’Old Hospital’,” according to McKenna’s letter to the commissioners dated Dec. 5, 2014.
That walkthrough was conducted on Nov. 25, 2014. McKenna’s letter was never filed in the courthouse project file being kept in the Clerk & Recorder’s Office. Commissioners also did not make any mention of the code violations at any of the three public meetings held last month on the courthouse space project, which may include a renovation of the old hospital.
The commissioner’s response letter was sent to the News upon request Tuesday, but commissioners did not answer any questions about why the report had not been filed or disclosed publicly.
The Fire Marshal’s letter was sent to the commissioners as well as county maintenance worker Jerry Bokma, Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger, then Stillwater County Attorney John Petak, State Electrical Inspector Wayne Polari and State Building Inspector Darrel Aaby.
The letter outlines the following violations:
•Meadowlark is currently out of compliance with licensure requirements of a fire suppression sprinkler system being serviced annually because it shares a system with the old hospital, and that system was disabled.
•There are no portable fire extinguishers located anywhere in the old hospital, which is referred to as “the construction area” in the report.
•An approximately 100-pound propane tank was found connected to a salamander heater stored inside the building. Code allows that 20-pound LP-gas cylinders can be used and even those must be removed when the building is not in use.
And when in use, heaters can be no closer than 6-feet from the cylinder. McKenna had the 100-pound cylinder removed in her presence, according to the report.
•Any fuel-fired equipment is not allowed to be stored, operated or repaired in a building. The commissioners were instructed to “remove and discontinue the practice of storing lawn mowers or any fuel-fired equipment inside.”
•Several portable electric heaters were located through the “construction area” that had been hard-wired directly into the electrical panels. This type of electrical work must be performed by a licensed commercial electrician “after having first procured a State Electrical permit,” according to the letter.
•All fire walls, fire barriers and fire partitions must be maintained to prevent the passage of fire. This means all cross-corridor doors and doors in fire related walls must be “maintained in the closed position to prevent the spread of fire.” Instead, all such doors were blocked open for convenience sake.
“The doors are a component of a fire rated system whose function is to prevent the travel and progression of fire,” according to the letter.
Commissioners were given 14 days to correct the code violations.
In the commissioner’s response letter, the following was written:
1. Mountain Fire Protection performed required tests and tagged the fire sprinkler system on Nov. 28, 2014.
2. Eight fire extinguishers were added to the “construction” area on Dec. 9, 2015.
3. The propane cylinder was removed at the time of the inspection.
4. A lawn mower was removed from the building on Dec. 5, 2014.
5. All wiring for portable electric heaters have been replaced by a licensed electrician on Dec. 5, 2014. (Reference Electrical Permit #2014-ECON-001706).
6. Fire alarm system was repaired and functioning by the end of the day of inspection. The Firewall door magnetic hold open devices are now functioning.
“Safety to our employees and residents is of upmost importance to Stillwater County. Thank you for bringing these deficiencies to our attention so that we could correct them in a timely manner,” wrote the commissioners in the response letter.