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August 20, 2018 2:35 am

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Saugatuck Township Officials Pressuring National Fire Official To Retract Statement That Recent Township Changes To Fire Code Poses Deadly Threat To Residents, Firefighters & Business Owners

Saugatuck Township officials are trying to pressure an official of the International Code Council (ICC), which oversees the use of the International Fire Code (IFC) by fire departments and municipalities across the U.S., to retract his statement that recent township changes to its fire code presents a danger to local and area residents, firefighters and businesses.

Terrell Stripling, ICC Technical Staff/Education, in a statement about Saugatuck Township’s changes to the IFC for the local fire district, wrote to Saugatuck Township Fire Chief Greg Janik:

“As far as my perspective on this subject, I tread gently. The intent of the (IFC) code is not for (more than) 5 homes in a subdivision. It is intended for individual dwelling units.

“Modification of the IFC defeats the intent if the change is not equal to or greater than the intent of the code.

“Therefore, the ramifications of these (Saugatuck Township) changes could be astronomical in loss of life. Life including individuals and firefighters. So circumventing the code with less than equal is not advisable.”

(The above highlighted words were highlighted in Stripling’s ICC response.)

Janik said he obtained Stripling’s permission to make the document public and Janik provided it to township officials who apparently either never read it or didn’t realize it was in that board meeting’s board and public packets based on their later statements after it appeared in The Local Observer.

Despite the fact that this communication from the ICC was provided Saugatuck Township officials and placed in its board packet which makes it a public document, no mention was made of it by those officials until The Local Observer obtained a copy of it and reported on Stripling’s comments verbatim in an April 20 article.

Asked about it at that time, Saugatuck Township Supervisor Chris Roerig said due to time constraints he was then unable to comment on the matter “until we can speak to Mr. Stripling.”

Now, in a May 16 email message obtained by The Local Observer, Saugatuck Township Zoning Administrator-Planner Steve Kushion sought to get Stripling to retract his statements and refers to The Local Observer story as a “hit piece” despite the newspaper accurately quoting Stripling and attempting to get comments from Saugatuck Township officials about the matter.

In his email message, Kushion, who has no training, certifications or experience in setting or creating state or international fire codes, wrote to Stripling, in part:

“After our conversation on Friday, April 27th, you indicated to me that you would talk to colleagues and get back to me with some sort of statement of retraction to the story that ran in the local paper (Observer) regarding the Township and their decision to drop portions of the IFC.

“You indicated in the past week that you weren’t going to further comment and that a response to your original interpretation was not necessary.

“After our conversation, I felt that your original interpretation was given to (Saugatuck Township) Fire Chief Greg Janik only after knowing a portion of the story, as you admitted. I also believe that you weren’t aware that your comments would be published as part of a hit piece in The Local Observer.

“You also were not aware that 4 out of 5 members of the Township Board were being recalled in efforts spearheaded by opponents of our IFC ordinance changes.
(The Saugatuck Township Recall group, which is behind the recall drive, cites myriad issues as reasons for seeking the township officials’ removal from office, not just their IFC decision. - Editor)

“In my opinion, making a claim that our code changes ‘Could be astronomical in loss of life. Life including individuals and firefighters’ is off base, especially considering the fact that there are many Townships in the state that have not adopted the IFC at all, and 90% of the Township’s (sic) in the County have not adopted the IFC.

“Would you give the same blanket statement for all other municipalities who haven’t adopted the IFC in its entirety? Bordering municipalities who assist us in mutual aid have not adopted the IFC, are they any less safe in our municipality than their own?”

In a May 2 Saugatuck Township Board meeting, Supervisor Roerig said he found Stripling’s comments “odd.”

“Due to some due diligence because the headline was people are in dire jeopardy based on some actions of the township, I got to tell you, I specifically found the quote a bit odd and it wasn’t all in the paper.

“But he (Stripling) started out by saying that he was treading gently and closed by saying, ‘Maybe I am off base here, so please correct me if I am traveling down the wrong road.’ It doesn’t sound like resounding ICC comment on the actions of the township.”

Roerig also stated that he is certified in fire alarm systems and “knows a little bit of this stuff…”

“That is not the type of comment this organization (ICC) would make officially because it doesn’t just include us, it includes many other communities that are in similar situations.

“That is why I had our people reach out to him,” said Roerig. “I also talked with Greg (Janik) about this and had some back-and-forth because I was surprised as a fire administration board member, I have never seen that (Stripling) letter.”

Told by Janik that the Stripling letter was provided to township offiicials and the Fire Board, Roerig responded that was neither “here nor there.”

Roerig added, “I wanted to see if that was an official comment or not and that wasn’t very clear.”

Roerig contends Stripling “has gotten into hot water with the ICC higher ups after they read that (Observer) article.

“The gentleman thought it was a ‘What if’ kind-of-a-question (from Janik) that he was asked and he mentioned that the disagreement that is going on in public between the fire department and the township is big news in their circle.”

Roerig noted he didn’t like to see comments like Stripling’s in the local press because that may damage the view of Saugatuck Township and the area being a good place to live or do business.

Janik says the township’s IFC changes are dangerous for everyone and the public should be aware they are now at risk as a result.

Saugatuck Township Officials Pressuring National Fire Official To Retract Statement That Recent Township Changes To Fire Code Poses Deadly Threat To Residents, Firefighters & Business Owners

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