Building’s Condition Adds to Debate Over Recreation Dept.

A recent inspection of the Stoneman Building pointed to deficiencies in fire detection, so a blue-ribbon committee evaluation of the future of the Recreation Department later this month will be particularly timely.
The aged building, which the city bought from the San Marino Unified School District years ago for $6 million, has never left the local spotlight because its condition requires numerous health and safety advances whose potential cost keeps rising.
Now that the city is taking a hard look at its recreation programming, the building — site of the department’s preschool and other programs — is falling under still more scrutiny.
The blue-ribbon committee — composed of Mayor Steve Talt and Councilman Ken Ude along with five other “citizen advisers” — planned to take up the fire-safety findings this week.
“We feel we’re making headway on this latest news with respect to Stoneman, and it’s going to have to be discussed,” Talt said during last week’s City Council meeting.
The building falls short of code requirements because it lacks automatic fire alarms and smoke detectors.
“It’s actually a usage that is triggered by having any child there up through 12th grade,” City Manager Marcella Marlowe said, explaining it was not merely the preschool’s presence that is an issue. The building “does not have an integrated smoke detection system. It actually doesn’t have any smoke detection system.”
Marlowe said the deputy fire marshal has ordered that the building be under “fire watch,” which requires city employees to certify every hour that no fire is occurring. In the meantime, she said there is a 30-day window for the city to rectify the situation.
“There are some more minor corrections that are in the neighborhood of $12,000 that we’re already working on,” she said.
The committee has met routinely since it was created more than two months ago. It had planned on presenting recommendations at last week’s meeting, but there were road bumps along the way, Talt explained.
“We are getting a draft report on many of the issues, but because of not only the summertime, but also getting all this info in and putting it into a form to advise us what to do, it’s taking longer than originally anticipated,” he said.
The City Council hopes to use the report and recommendations to establish a new direction for the Recreation Department, one that will emphasize more popular programming, cost recovery and reduced liability for the city. Residents have vocally showed support for the department as a community-building entity, pleading with city officials to keep it open amid rumors that it will be shuttered.
For the current fiscal year, the City Council in effect replicated last year’s budget for the Recreation Department while cutting some programs and streamlining costs. Next year, however, officials will be looking at the possibility of changes.
Talt said the committee is expected to present ideas about the department at the Sept. 29 meeting, while Marlowe said she expected to have recommendations specific to the Stoneman Building on
Oct. 10.

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