Meeting with town staff recently, including the manager of facilities, confirmed for me that the fire suppression systems at 22 Church Street School, current home of the Aurora “Cultural” centre does not include the presence of a pre system.
The reason this is cause for slight alarm is that upon visiting the normally off limits areas of artefact storage onsite at the building recently I noticed the presence of sprinkler heads in the areas of artefact storage, including the climate controlled areas.
The Canadian Conservation Institute has a decent overview on automatic sprinkler systems for Museums here: http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/publications/notes/2-8-eng.aspx
The current system was put in place during the renovations and prior to the carving up of the space, but the question now is, what happens if the system was to engage?
The town is well aware of the value of a pre system as reported in the August 24th 2010 edition of the Auroran over $500,000 of IT equipment was saved when smoke was detected in town hall’s network room. A pre-system, installed in April of 2009 at a cost of $13,500 engaged, and the fail safe worked preventing the triggering of the suppression system. You can read that article here:
A pre-system at 22 Church St. seems warranted as without it there is a chance of the system dousing all of the artefacts in storage.
After conversing with Central York Fire Services it is clear that the the town is not in violation of any fire code, but given the value of the Aurora collection, and the money spent in grants to house it at the Church Street School, how could such a system be overlooked in the renovations?
The building is currently leased to the Aurora “Cultural” Centre, with the town bearing the full cost of maintenance and operations.
The following is taken from the Lease Agreement for the building:
29.The Town will maintain a complete, current and approved fire safety plan for the School, and will provide a hard copy and digital copy of the plan to the Centre for implementation and compliance. The Centre agrees to comply with the fire safety plan and all applicable laws now or hereafter in force concerning fire safety.
One can’t help but notice the inappropriateness of using the venue to house an indoor Aurora Farmers Market.
Leaving aside the obvious issue of exceeding occupancy capacity on the 2nd floor during these events, food is being prepared indoors. Heating of foods on hotplates produces a risk of fire and smoke in the building. I don’t believe that this is condoned by the lease agreement under which the Cultural Centre operates, and nor is it condoned by the town.
Operating a multi-use facility requires a significant amount of operational oversight, none of which seems to be evident in how the Church Street school is being used, and that is just one more area that needs to be addressed in all of the recent push and pull to shore up the shoddily constructed Lease and Cultural Services agreements.
I would suggest that town staff and council see that the Aurora Farmers Market be re-located to a more appropriate venue in the town as it not only applies undue pressure on the capacity of the building, produces traffic safety and parking issues in the vicinity it now looks to compromise the safety of the artefacts and collections in the Church Street School.
A small sprinkling of sanity could go a long way to rebuilding credibility of operating a multi-use centre at that location.