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Mascoma Officals Wait For N.H. Fire Marshal

Canaan — Administrators at Mascoma Valley Regional High School are still waiting to hear from the state Fire Marshal’s Office after a renovation plan that would have added a sprinkler system failed in March.

In March, a $21.8 million proposal to renovate the 50-year-old high school failed. It was the third renovation bond to fail since 2008.

The high school received a letter from the Fire Marshal’s Office in 1997 that said the school district must address fire safety issues, including adding a sprinkler system. Sixteen years later, the school still doesn’t have a sprinkler system.

Canaan Fire Chief Bill Bellion toured the high school several weeks ago with two officials from the Fire Marshal’s Office, as well as the superintendent and the high school principal.

But there has not been an order from the fire marshal and Bellion said he hasn’t formally heard back from the office. Bellion said he was told that officials would make a list of their findings and submit a report with their recommendations to Bellion and the school. It would then be the school district’s responsibility to respond to the fire marshal with a plan to meet the recommendations and a time line, Bellion said.

Once the district hears back from the Fire Marshal’s Office, Bellion said a fire protection engineer might be hired to develop a comprehensive package to address all fire safety issues. The sprinkler system likely would be the most expensive item, Bellion said.

The high school has emergency lighting, back-up power and is fully equipped with alarms. Monthly fire drills are conducted, and whenever the school has a large event in the gym, firefighters are present to monitor the crowd and alarm systems, Bellion said.

The high school is on well water, and the failed renovation proposal included a 20,000 gallon storage tank that would have been installed under the proposed auditorium to support a sprinkler system.

School Board Chairman Jim Gerding said the board is hoping to bring a renovation bond back to voters in March, but Gerding said the board is unsure what changes it will include. Any renovation proposal would need to include a sprinkler system, Gerding said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.