Village approves sprinkler system variance for Miller-Reesman Funeral Home

Karen Mahoney

A change to the Village of Union Grove fire code nearly halted the expansion project of the Miller-Reesman Funeral Home.

Located at 620-15th Avenue, owner Glen Miller was ready to submit his final renovation plans to the state until he learned that changes to the village fire code required adding a sprinkler system to the building, which would increase remodeling costs by $100,000.

While the state of Wisconsin requires sprinkler systems on renovations and new construction projects with a footprint of 5,000 square feet, the Union Grove code requires a system for projects of 3,000 square feet.

After several bids, the lowest cost system would have run Miller $47,720 for the system alone, not including wiring of the alarm, connection with local and monitored alarm systems, water main lateral with private fire hydrant and tee, and overtime and shift premiums.

“It would cost us more than $16,000 to hook up the main line and that doesn’t even include surface restoration of the road, landscaping, sidewalks, driveway, grass or the alarm system,” said Miller during the Oct. 12 Union Grove Village Board meeting. “This could easily be an extra $100,000 on a $150,000 expansion. The total structure will only be 3,300 square feet and that is well under the state level.”

With a 3,000-square-foot requirement, Miller, a lifelong Union Grove resident, argued that the village is driving away the opportunity for new commercial ventures in the community. He cited neighboring communities, such as Paddock Lake and Kansasville that follow state guidelines of 5,000 square feet before requiring sprinkler systems and are more conducive to new businesses.

“This ordinance is creating an uneven playing field for new businesses,” he said. “You are standing in the way of new businesses and not behind new businesses and are deterring new construction. We are at the very edge in the 3,000-square-foot requirement.

“Why can a place the like depot remodel a much older building with no firewall, no sprinkler system and I am having all this trouble? We don’t live in the building, have no candles, no smoking and are not attached to another building,” Miller said.

Plan commissioner and Village President Mike Aimone said that the Depot was remodeled prior to the code taking effect.

“They got in under the wire,” he said. “But, I agree, the fire commission needs to know this. They need to be aware of the potential costs to business owners in certain situations like this. This is more than a 40-percent increase in their building costs.”

For the Millers, adding the expensive system would put the small family business they have owned since 2007 in financial hardship, forcing them to look in other communities for their funeral home.

Initially, the village plan commission and board thought to present the case to the Fire Commission for their approval before giving the Millers a variance. However, upon learning that costs to submit the plan to the state will be approximately $700 to 800, and waiting another month would mean putting the project on hold, the board decided to use its authority vote on the issue.

In a unanimous vote, the village board approved a variance on the existing legislation to the Miller-Reesman Funeral Home on the sprinkler requirement.

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