By JOHN GORALSKI
It’s been almost two months since Town Councilors Tom Lombardi (R) and Victoria Triano joined State Representatives David Zoni and Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz in front of the Public Safety and Security Committee in Hartford to speak in favor of a House Bill, sponsored by Zoni, that would give towns a waiver against state building codes for on-the-street fairs.
Yesterday, Town Attorney Mark Sciota heard the good news. The state has granted Southington the waiver.
The current state building code prohibits temporary structures being placed within 15 feet of any overhead wiring, so the waiver was necessary to ensure the survival of Southington’s three downtown activities: Music on the Green, the Apple Harvest Festival (AHF), and the Italian Festival.
In a letter from the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), Deputy State Building Inspector Daniel Tierney said, “It is my decision to approve this modification, as requested, and allow portable structures (tents and a stage) to be located within 15 feet of overhead conductors, with the stipulation that a licensed electrician or other qualified person be present and observe the erection of such tents. This decision is based on existing conditions that preclude compliance with requirements for new construction.”
In a joint statement, Aresimowicz and Zoni said that they were pleased that the DAS approval will allow the downtown festivals to continue.
“We know these events have historical and cultural significance in Southington and are important to the local economy and businesses,” they said in their statement. “These are events that we, along with everyone else, enjoy and look forward to every year. While we were prepared to introduce legislation if necessary, we appreciate DAS’s cooperation and effort to ensure that the festivals can continue to be enjoyed by the town and the thousands of people who attend the festivities.”
The DAS stipulations should be easily met by current procedures. All work is currently done by licensed and qualified workers.
When he addressed the state committee in early March, Lombardi pointed to the extensive list of inspections that the town already conducts for the festivals and events. The tents are all fire rated, installed professionally by a local vendor, and inspected by the fire department and building officials. Smoking is prohibited near the booths. Fire extinguishers are provided, and the town has installed electrical outlets over the years to supply electricity safely to the tents.
“This isn’t our first rodeo doing fairs,” Lombardi said in March. “We’re not interested in violating any codes. On the other hand, we have to state our case. Safety has been and always will be our No. 1 priority for any public event that we put on.”