Suffolk County Chief Fire Marshal Ed Springer holds up a...

Suffolk County Chief Fire Marshal Ed Springer holds up a carbon monoxide detector during a press conference inside the lobby of the Suffolk County Legislative building on May 21, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Wednesday signed into law a bill that will put carbon monoxide detectors in more than 100 county and community college buildings over the next three years to protect county employees and residents.

Bellone signed the measure, along with others creating a task force on the issue and allowing police to consider using portable detectors, at a news conference in the Hauppauge legislative building with sponsor Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) and the half-dozen co-sponsors looking on. Bellone called the steps "common sense measures that will go a long way in protecting our residents and employees."

Kennedy filed his bill, dubbed the Steve Nelson Safety Act, after the manager of Legal Sea Foods in Huntington Station who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in February.

"I'm not for banning a 32-ounce Big Gulp, but when it comes to a dangerous chemical that one cannot see and cannot not smell, government has got to act," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the measure will require the largest of county buildings -- those more than 100,000 square feet -- to be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors by Dec. 31, 2015; those between 20,000 and 100,000 square feet must have detectors installed by Dec. 31, 2016, and smaller county buildings must be outfitted by Dec. 31, 2018. He said that the public works department has estimated the cost of the work at $500,000.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), a co-sponsor, said the legislation is important because the county has already suffered from a lack of detectors. She said police Sgt. James Hutchens died in 1992 after he was found unconscious in the police radio shop garage when he was overcome because the ventilation system was turned off while a car was left running in the building. "It happened before and shouldn't happen again," Hahn said.

Kennedy said the county does not have the power to require smoke detectors in commercial buildings, but said the task force must issue recommendations aimed at getting changes in the state building code to require carbon monoxide detectors.

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