Waterville Fire Chief Authorized To Enforce Fire Codes 

Waterville City Councilors voted unanimously last night to allow the city’s fire chief to enforce national fire safety codes in the downtown area.Prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, no one in Waterville was designated to enforce the city’s fire codes in what’s defined as “the congested business district”, which is Watervilles downtown area.Now it’s Waterville & Winslow Fire Chief David LaFountain’s responsibility. But LaFountain says the only difference is that he can now take offenders who don’t comply with the codes to civil court.”We’re mostly concerned with apartments that share occupancy with businesses,” LaFountain said Tuesday.The city council’s decision comes on the heels of a downtown fire in May that did significant damage to a Main Street building that housed apartments and businesses. LaFountain said when these apartments were unoccupied, the business owner who owned them had asked city and state officials for permission to shut the sprinkler system down until the vacant apartments were filled.”We asked over a period of time to have those sprinklers restored and they were not,” LaFountain said. “And eventually we did have a fire that created a lot of damage in the area and put that neighborhood at risk.”The cause of the fire in may was never determined. LaFountain says he is aware that some of the business owners in the area are a bit uneasy after the council’s decision. He says he plans on meeting with them and reiterating that the code enforcement is the only thing that’s new here. All inspections will be done using the same codes they’ve been using.Some business owners fear the cost of putting in new sprinkler systems or other equipment could be too much to bear”We’re not gonna go in and say you have six months to put in a $40,000 system if that’s what it’s gonna cost,” LaFountain said. “I think we’re looking at a long term compliance issue. Let’s work toward that cooperatively and not heavy-handed.”