Club at Cooper deemed fire safe

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Although the issue of possibly needing sprinklers installed within the rooms of the Club at Cooper, the newest branch of the Warwick Boys and Girls Club that opened in November at the former Lloyd S. Cooper Army Reserve building on Sandy Lane, has once again been held until the next meeting of the Warwick City Council, the club is reportedly completely up to code and safe to occupy.

“The governing body of that is the state fire marshal, and the state fire marshal has given us the ‘all clear’ and indicated that we are in compliance,” said Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Warwick Boys and Girls Club.

The road to compliance has been a bumpy one. After a bid to install sprinklers was shot down by the council for being incomplete in September, the club delayed its initial opening date until October. It then required a fire watch for the first couple of months after opening due to doubts regarding the building’s safety not having a sprinkler system installed.

Those doubts were expressed openly, and continue to be expressed at almost all city council meetings since that bid was rejected, by Ward 5 Councilman and Finance Committee chair Ed Ladouceur, who did not return a phone call requesting a comment on the matter on Monday.

At the council’s request, D’Antuono said the Boys and Girls Club hired Jensen Hughes engineering to conduct a neutral assessment of the building in October, in addition to hosting inspections from the city and state fire marshals, and they also appeared before the state fire board twice – which led to recommendations that the club install smoke detectors and cap the maximum occupancy of the club’s gymnasium area to 300 people.

With those changes made – the smoke detectors were purchased with the club’s own money and installed throughout December and early January – the club is officially fire safe, D’Antuono said.

“We have outside bodies, neutral bodies, telling us the city has all the requirements to occupy the building,” she said. “They’re the regulatory body and they’re telling us in their professional opinion that’s what they needed to deem us compliant.”

There is a second floor at the Cooper Building, which is currently unoccupied, that may need additional measures to be deemed safe for occupancy as well.

D’Antuono said that those measures were being pursued.

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