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Brookhaven moves to require carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings

Legal Sea Foods in the Shops at Walt

Legal Sea Foods in the Shops at Walt Whitman mall is closed Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, for an investigation into why and how the manager Steve Nelson, 55, died and 27 people were sickened by carbon monoxide Saturday evening. Credit: James Carbone

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine wants to make the town's fire prevention code stronger than the state's by requiring all commercial buildings to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.

Romaine plans to sponsor legislation this month to amend Chapter 30 of the town's fire prevention code. The move comes after the death last month of Steven Nelson, 55, general manager of Legal Sea Foods at Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station. Nelson, of Copiague, was found unconscious in the eatery's basement. The Suffolk medical examiner's office has ruled that carbon monoxide poisoning related to a faulty flue was the cause of death.

"This is something the town wants to move forward with," Romaine said at a work session last week at Town Hall. "It will provide better protection."

Meanwhile, Suffolk County Legis. John M. Kennedy (R-Nesconset) plans to introduce a pair of resolutions that would create a task force aimed at requiring businesses to install carbon monoxide detectors, along with an immediate requirement for the equipment to be installed in Suffolk municipal and college buildings.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Assembly in Albany and in Hempstead Town.

Brookhaven's Town Board, at Tuesday's meeting, is expected to schedule a public hearing on the matter for March 25, officials said. The proposed law would require all commercial buildings in town to install carbon monoxide detectors within 90 days.

New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code requires smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in residential buildings, Brookhaven's chief fire marshal Christopher J. Mehrman said.

The amended town code must be approved by the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, which can opt to make changes or void it, town officials said. A change in the Brookhaven law would stand, however, until that decision is made, officials said.

"It is important to not only enact stricter regulations for commercial uses, but to also increase awareness and education about the causes, effects and prevention of [carbon monoxide] poisoning," Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert said.

"We fully support the implementation of legislation that will serve to protect staff and patrons alike at restaurants located in the Town of Brookhaven," said Brian Rosenberg, an official with the Long Island Restaurant and Hospitality Association. "It is important for business and government to work together in order to provide for the health, safety and well-being of our residents."

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