Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Stillwater County Courthouse in Columbus.

Courthouse inspection gets “non-compliant” rating

In response to a question about whether a locked gate could be placed across an exit way staircase, the state Fire Marshal conducted a “fire and safety walkthrough inspection” of the county courthouse on April 29.
State Deputy Fire Marshal Sally McKenna did not say from whom that inquiry came, but did confirm Monday that the locked gate that used to be pulled shut and locked every night, blocking the first level of the courthouse from the upper floors had been removed as the result of her visit.
And it was done promptly.
“To the commissioners’ credit, before I got back to my office in the afternoon on the same day, I had an email notifying me that the gate had been removed (with photo attached as proof); so I did not include it on the inspection report,” McKenna wrote in an email to the SCN.
The gate had been in place since before 1997, said Stillwater County Commissioner Gerald Dell.
McKenna said a second reason for the inspection was the fact that she had recently inspected the old hospital.
Both buildings are of significant public interest as they are part of four options or alternatives set forth as possible solutions to the aging and over-crowded courthouse. One of the alternatives calls for the remodeling of the old hospital and three alternatives involve the entire or partial remodeling of the current courthouse.
McKenna outlined the following issues from an April 29 inspection of the courthouse:
1. Manually operated flush bolts or surface bolts are not permitted, but a sliding deadbolt was found on the door to the basement.
2. Fire extinguishers were not mounted at the required height of no higher than 60-inches from the floor and be accessible within 75 feet of travel distance from anywhere within a room or area. McKenna directed that fire extinguishers be relocated.
3. Objects obstructed fire exits. Specifically, objects were blocking a door leading from the district courtroom, near the judge’s bench.
4. The courtroom exits do not meet the minimum distance apart to qualify as two separate exits. McKenna said the two solutions for this is to remodel or limit courtroom occupancy to 49 people.
5. Provide emergency lighting appliances for all (upper) levels of the facility and illuminate the pathways to exits.
6. Test all exit signs and emergency lighting applications and replace bulbs and batteries as needed.
7. The fire alarm system for the facility shall be tested and serviced on an annual basis. “The fire alarm system does not currently have a service tag attached as proof of annual service. Contact a licensed service company to service/test the system and provide a dated tag as proof of said service.”
McKenna explained that when the courthouse was built, state safety codes did not require a fire alarm system. Because the building is still being used for the purpose it was originally built for -- a county courthouse -- and the occupancy has remained the same, a fire alarm system is not required.
However, because there is now a fire alarm system in place, it must be tested annually and tagged.
McKenna’s letter states commissioners had no more than 14 days to address what she calls “deficiencies” and notify her to schedule a “re-inspection to confirm compliance.”
County Facilities Supervisor Jerry Bokma emailed McKenna on May 19 to advise her that two of the seven issues outlined (numbers two and three) have been addressed as of that date. The remainder were still being worked on, according to Bokma’s letter.