Girard school operated without permit

GIRARD -- Troubled Girard Intermediate School didn't have a required state-issued occupancy permit and stayed open after a temporary permit expired.
Superintendent Anthony D'Ambrosia termed the lack of an occupancy permit unfortunate but noted the matter can be resolved by scheduling a final building inspection.
Thomas Ratcliff, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce, said a final occupancy permit will not be issued until the concerns over fire suppression systems and modifications to the building are resolved.
The school was closed May 1 for the rest of the year after pupils and staff complained of illnesses. Since then, the problem has been traced to the heating and ventilation system.
Temporary permit: The commerce department's Division of Industrial Compliance issued a 90-day temporary occupancy permit beginning Sept. 1, 2000. It expired Nov. 30, 2000.
Permits are required, Ratcliff said, to assure that buildings are structurally sound, safe and properly maintained.
A final inspection was not done, the superintendent said, because the school library and gymnasium were not finished when the building opened last September.
"My main concern was getting the building open," D'Ambrosio added.
Ratcliff, however, said the temporary permit was issued contingent on installation of a fire damper system in the building before the final inspection.
Dampers are automatically activated so smoke, fire and poisonous gases don't spread to other parts of a building through the ventilation duct work during a fire.
Ratcliff said it was incumbent upon the school district or contractor to notify the commerce department when the dampers were installed so they could be inspected and a final occupancy permit issued.
Debate over them: D'Ambrosio said there was a debate about the need for dampers in August 2000 between the state inspector and Steel Valley Engineering of Youngstown, which engineered the building.
He added that it was his understanding dampers weren't required because of fire walls in the building.
Ratcliff also said the sprinkler system installed in the building should have been activated.
"It's not something that can just be installed and be nonoperational, the commerce department spokesman added. "You don't want to give people a false sense of security."
The issue of the sprinkler system was raised Tuesday during a meeting called by the Girard Concerned Parents.
D'Ambrosio acknowledged the sprinklers were not connected, but he asserted they weren't required.
The superintendent explained that voters approved a $5.3 million bond issue to build the school. He also applied for funds from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to remodel the Prospect Elementary School that's connected to the intermediate school.
While the intermediate school was being built, D'Ambrosio explained, the state commission approved the funds to remodel the elementary building.
Not required: A sprinkler system was not required at the intermediate school because it was built with fire walls.
D'Ambrosio said, however, that the commission required sprinklers in the intermediate school because it considered it and the Prospect remodeling work a total project. It was then decided to install the sprinklers while the intermediate school was under construction.
The system will be activated when the Prospect remodeling is complete, he said. That work is now in the design stage.

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