Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bellevue senior-care facility warned of fire code violations

City threatens closure of Safe Haven

Express Staff Writer

The Safe Haven eldercare facility in Bellevue will have to comply with local fire code requirements or could be shut down next month. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Safe Haven eldercare facility in Bellevue could be shut down in two weeks unless its owners meet the city's fire code requirements as set forth in plans in November.

Bellevue Fire Chief Greg Beaver sent a certified letter to Safe Haven CEO Scott Burpee last week warning that the facility's business license would be revoked on May 2 unless it installs an approved sprinkler and alarm system.

"Hopefully, they do what they are supposed to do," Beaver said.

Bellevue Planning Director Craig Eckles said the city has been trying to get the facility into compliance to avoid a tragedy, but also to protect the city.

"We could be liable if something happened," Eckles said.

Beaver said at a City Council meeting Thursday that Safe Haven had an unapproved sprinkler system and an alarm system that would not meet current state fire codes for eldercare facilities.

"The alarm system must alert an outside agency with a 24-hour dialer on the system that calls 911," Beaver said.

Beaver said the building also did not have strobe lights and smoke detectors in every room and that Burpee recently submitted plans to the state fire marshal seeking to downgrade these system requirements.

In an interview, Burpee challenged Beaver's claim that his business is out of compliance with code.

"That's his opinion," Burpee said. "Chief Beaver and I are not in agreement on this."

Burpee said he has satisfied the Idaho Health and Welfare requirements for alarms and sprinklers at Safe Haven and that there should not be a problem.

"Our licensure is with the state of Idaho, not the city of Bellevue," he said. "Hopefully, we can work this out in the next week or two."

Emily Simnitt, a spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said the facility was in compliance with state rules and regulations, but would also have to satisfy local requirements in Bellevue.

"We recognize they have to meet local ordinances as well," she said.

Beaver said in an interview that any fire alarm system in the building would have to be approved by him before it meets the city's fire code requirements.

"If it has been approved, I don't know by whom," he said.

Eight people live at Safe Haven assisted-living facility on 314 S. Seventh St. Beaver said he didn't know where they would go if the business were closed.

City Council members expressed concern about the safety of the residents and said they hoped the letter would lead to fire code compliance soon.

"They (Safe Haven) have had fair warning," Councilman Brett Gelskey said.

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