State OKs Sig Ep, AKL sprinklers

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 22, 1996

After a week and a half of homelessness, members of the Alpha Kappa Lambda and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternities are moving back into their houses.

The fire marshal approved the inspection on Friday, and the members of SPE moved in this weekend. Members of AKL will move in this afternoon.

"We're all really excited about it. We'll be all set and ready for rush next week," said Todd Sands, SPE president.

The house was supposed to open Thursday after the Tucson Water Department tapped the lines, but the lines were on back order, causing delay, said Mel Williams, SPE's philanthropist.

The fraternities were thrown out of their houses after winter break until the state fire marshal's request to install sprinkler systems in their residences was complied with.

Josh Lerner, AKL house manager, said the university originally told them to install sprinklers in the dorm-room section of the house. Then, he said, they changed the order to sprinklers in every room.

However, Herb Wagner, assistant director of risk management, said that AKL has had repeated violations with safety features during its semiannual inspections.

"We're not out to punish anybody," said Ed Deschaines, state fire marshal. "This is a life safety issue. They cannot physically occupy the houses until that (installation) is done."

The fire marshal gave the fraternities six months to comply with the safety requirements. For SPE this meant taking out lofts and removing the tops of dressers to install the sprinklers.

According to the Arizona State Fire Marshal's occupancy report, the fire marshal ordered AKL to service all fire extinguishers on an annual basis after each use and to remove all flammable and combustible liquid from the building. It also advised the fraternity that the kitchen hood extinguisher system needed to be serviced, extension cords could not be used in place of permanent wiring, and single-station smoke detectors must be tested on a monthly basis.

Rob Jako, AKL's adviser, said they originally felt the UA should pay for the fire sprinkler installation because the fraternity leases the property from it. When the houses were built in 1961, they were built with the taxpayers' money. The money from the 30-year lease pays back the tax payers. At the end of the contract term, the fraternity had the option of buying the property.

AKL's attorney sent a letter to the university arguing that the fraternity should be responsible for the general upkeep of the house, but not for the major capital improvements, Jako said.

Because the lease is long-term, UA legal affairs said AKL is responsible for the improvements.