Thursday, March 09, 2006

Putting a value on a life

I have a five-year-old son. My wife and I think he's priceless. I'm sure all parents think the same of their own children.
I'm concerned that Town Councilor Andy Upham may think otherwise. I'd hate to think that Upham places the value of a life at no more than $45,000 - the cost of a 30,000-gallon cistern for a new subdevelopment.
You see, Upham doesn't think we should presently require builders to install life safey items like sprinklers or cisterns in new developments. Why? Because they aren't specifically noted in ordinances.
Now let's look at some facts. Sprinklers in houses can suppress a fire for the approximately 15 minutes needed for firefighters to respond and set up a flow of water. Cisterns are needed in areas where it's hard to find water. Nationally, it's recommended that, within 15 minutes of being notified of a fire, a fire department should be able to establish a flow of water at 250 gallons per minute for 2 hours. That's where the 30,000 gallons comes from.
If water is not available near a proposed subdivision, builders throughout the country have traditionally been required to install their own water source - a cistern. The size of the cistern is predicated on various factors, including any available water in local streams or rivers.
Another fact - under Maine state statute, section 4403, a Planning Board may choose to disapprove a development that does not include life safety items.THIS IS NOT ILLEGAL. It is allowed under Maine statute, despite what Upham said at the council meeting.
This is good for the community. It saves lives right up front. And it saves all the taxpayers in Gray the cost of adding fire trucks to carry water to a fire that does not have a nearby water source.
For many years, the previous town councilors were perfectly happy to let our Planning Board make decisions that were good for the community.
Do we need to have life safety items specified in our ordinances? No we do not. But if Upham wants to incorporate them into the ordinances, that is fine.
Just don't shoot everyone in the foot by prohibiting the established practice by the Planning Board of requiring life safety items.
Our Town Council would be wise to continue with the status quo while working on updating the ordinances.
This move by Upham gives the appearance he is putting dollars before lives. I hope he'll rethink this proposal.
Nathan Tsukroff