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New sprinkler law could help businesses
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The council, at their meeting Monday, approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make changes to the occupancy requirements before a building would need to have automatic sprinklers.

Under the current ordinance, buildings and structures used for assembly purposes such as dance halls and nightclubs with occupancies of 200 or more people and 50 or more people with alcoholic beverages being served are required to have an automatic sprinkler system.

The council amended the ordinance, which now says the occupancy load is 300 people or more and 100 people or more with alcoholic beverages being served at the building should have a sprinkler system.

Lee Mayfield Jr., who owns the Mayfield Hardware building on Washington Street, has been attending council meetings since September in hopes to raise awareness to several problems he has had with his building meeting specific fire codes and ordinances.

Mayfield told the council he rents out his building to Bonanza Productions, which films "The Vampire Diaries" and other businesses such as the Chamber of Commerce, who holds events such as "Taste of Newton."

He said the Bonanza Company wanted to house extras while they were filming an episode and said they would have caters at the building who would provide food to the people who were extras.

Mayfield said the Covington Fire Department did not allow him to rent out his building for the company to use because they determined the building was not in compliance with specific fire codes when it came to needing sprinklers in the building for the amount of people who would be housed there and possibility that cooking would be done in the building.

He told the council that the cost of a sprinkler system would exceed $75,000 and he was aware of other business locations that changed the use of their buildings without meeting fire standards.

In a formal notice of appeal, Mayfield asked the council to allow his buildings to be used for other purposes without the need for sprinkling the building. The council denied his appeal.

Mayfield said on the phone Wednesday that he did not expect his appeal to get approved by the council and he wrote the appeal in order for the council to take a closer look at the building and zoning ordinances and the fire ordinances that were in place.

"I needed to bring this up to the city council," Mayfield said. "When you are dealing with four sets of codes, they are all not going to be aligned."

Mayor Ronnie Johnston said after receiving Mayfield's appeal, a meeting was held with Deputy Chief Fire Marshal David Carter and they looked at what changes if any needed to be made to their current fire codes.

"We looked a little bit closer and I think we do have some more room to make our zoning and ordinances with the fire department a little bit more consistent," said Johnston.

Carter told the council that the fire department has continued to work with Mayfield and they have discussed ways for him to rent out his building and ensure it was up to the building and zoning and fire codes.

He said the changes to the ordinance that the council made are now consistent with state codes and regulations for assembly.

Johnston commended Mayfield and the fire department for working together to look at the issues at hand and their efforts in trying to resolve them.

"This is why we need to encourage our citizens to stay involved because a lot of these things are through departments and they can always be improved and I want to thank Mr. Mayfield for bringing it up," Johnston said.