Homeless to remain in Chicopee hotels

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) –  The City of Chicopee has reached an agreement with the three hotels housing homeless families in the city.  Instead of installing a sprinkler system, the Quality Inn, Days Inn, and Econolodge hotels agreed they would each get a “fire watch” for their buildings.

“Sprinkler systems would be very costly and it would take a long time to orchestrate, it may take quite a period of time,” said Tom Murphy, the lawyer representing the hotels.

A “fire watch” will be a person hired by the hotels and approved by the city’s fire department to report a fire if an emergency happens. They will also have some kind of experience with fire extinguishers that are already at the hotels. The “fire watch” will work overnight hours when hotel staffing levels are lower.

The plan comes weeks after the city notified the three hotels that they were in violation of the city’s zoning ordinances. The ordinances state that any hotel in which guests stay for more than 30 days is classified as a “lodging house,” and therefore needs a sprinkler system. The hotels had been given 30 days following their notification, but worked out a deal with the city that extended the deadline to Thursday, when the final agreement was made during a meeting at Chicopee City Hall.

“I think it’s a stop-gap compromise. It’s not a compromise I would want to see go on in all these buildings, what I want is an automatic sprinkler system installed in all these buildings if they’re going to continue these programs,” said Joseph Viamari, Chicopee’s Building Commissioner.

The 22News I-Team talked to the lawyer representing the hotels, Tom Murphy, who said that installing sprinklers would be expensive and take a long time. A sprinkler system could cost $300,000 or more, depending on the age and configuration of the building and access to sufficient water pressure, he said.

Murphy added that there are no plans to install sprinklers right now, but it doesn’t mean they won’t consider it down the road.

The “fire watch” system will likely start in a week or two.

Putting families in hotels is a state-run program.

Matthew Sheaff with the Department of Housing and Community Development issued this statement:

“Our number one priority continues to be the health and safety of all the families in our emergency shelter system. As we continue to work with families on transitioning out of emergency shelter and into permanent affordable housing. We expect all businesses that we work with to comply with all local and state ordinances and we are glad that this local issue has
been resolved.”

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