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MEEKER I On Aug. 13, the Meeker Fire District board voted unanimously to donate up to $80,000 to Barone Middle School to cover the cost of an all-new and much-needed fire alarm system.
Due to a remodeling project to move the administrative offices from the second floor to the first floor, the original fire alarm control panel, installed in the 1970s, could not be moved and would not be compatible with new changes. An entirely new system was necessary.
Because of the high cost of a new state-of-the-art system, however, and because there was not enough time before the start of school to qualify for any grants, Meeker School District Superintendent Chris Selle, along with Meeker Board of Education members Bill deVergie and Mindy Burke, and Barone Middle School Principal Jim Hanks, approached the fire district board and asked if there was any way the fire district could help.
After obtaining details of the project, such as background, cost, overall plan and drawings, the board decided that such help fit in with the mission of the fire district, which prompted the unanimous vote.
“It’s wonderful when we can partner with other agencies in the county and the town to take care of our kids,” Selle said. “Our No. 1 responsibility is student learning, but student safety is 1A.”
Student enrollment at Barone this year is 138.
“It’s pretty common knowledge that schools in Colorado have struggled financially for a number of years,” Selle said. “So to leverage this kind of community partnership to serve the needs of our students is phenomenal.” He added that such a donation freed up school funds for other use, such as books, technology and other education needs.
Fire Chief Marshall Cook addressed what might be a concern to district taxpayers.
“The challenge to this board when someone comes to them like this is making sure that they’re actually buying a product,” he said. “You can’t just donate tax dollars for a project. In this case, it is a fire safety issue and falls within the realm of what we do as a district. So the board felt that was an acceptable expenditure.”
Cook said, “I supported (this expenditure). I thought it was a great plan, and it’s awesome to be a part of a department that can actually help the community in ways other than just responding with fire trucks and ambulances.”
Chief Cook’s view is that fire prevention is the first objective of a reputable fire department and suppression is the second. He said he feels that this project fits in with that second objective.
It was not known until the end of July that the entire Barone fire system would have to be replaced, but the entire project, including design, required permits, and other factors, was completed in three weeks.
The actual installation of the new system was performed by Acme Fire Alarm Co. of Rifle.
“We installed about 190 devices in that building in a little over a week and a half,” Clint Bartels, the engineer on the project, said. Such devices included smoke detectors, heat detectors, pull stations and horn strobes.
Cutting-edge laser technology was used in the gymnasium, mezzanine and common areas. Such “beam” detectors shoot an elliptical beam across the covered area. These are far less prone to false alarms than conventional ionizing detectors, which collect dust and require periodic cleaning. Another advantage of beam detectors is that fewer are needed to cover an area.
In addition to all the devices, new electrical conduit had to be run, along with about 12,000 feet of wire. Walker Electric, also out of Rifle, aided in the installation.
Bartels also indicated that this was a unique installation.
“When you go into a building nowadays, especially a school, they usually have a fire sprinkler system,” he said. “The uniqueness here was there’s no sprinkler system, which makes what we call ‘a fire system complete.’
“What we usually have is ‘a fire system partial,’ which means you just need smoke detectors in the corridors and classrooms,” he said. “But in this building, it had to have complete detection: every closet, locker, hallway, back room, and office.”
The entire new system is computer controlled, with every location traceable. In comparison to the old system, which consisted of only nine pull stations and some horns, Bartels concluded, “It’s a much safer facility now.”