LARGO - In a letter dated December 9 to Samuel K. Downing, Chief Operating Officer of the Belleview Biltmore Resort, Largo fire chief Jeffery Bullock responded to correspondence from Downing dated December 5th regarding code compliance of the hotel.
Bullock writes, "It is important to clarify that it is the responsibility of the Belleview Biltmore to ensure its facilities meet the Florida Fire Prevention Code, and that the fire prevention staff are responsible to review your facility to validate the compliance."
In the letter Bullock relays that on November 8 a fire inspection staff visited the hotel to conduct an overview of the facility. "At that time, it was confirmed that the non-compliance of the facility in the areas of structural integrity, electrical, fire protection systems, etc., far exceeds the scope of validating fire code."
Bullock explains that the state's fire prevention code is Florida law and meant to ensure the safety of hotel guests, visitors and employees. "Failure of the previous owners of the Belleview Biltmore to maintain compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code in the past, and the financial status of the current corporation, does not relieve you of the responsibility for the safety of the citizenry, he told Downing.
In a telephone interview December 13 Bullock said, "We have sent them a letter requesting them to take the next 30 days to develop a process team to assess the facility."
Bullock said a preliminary type inspection was conducted last year but as the hotel was slated for demolition action was postponed.
He explained, "I became the fire chief a month ago and because Largo is contracted by the city of Belleair Bluffs, who is contracted by the city of Belleair to provide fire protection and emergency services, Largo is involved."
"Where we are at is that we've had a couple of conversations with hotel management. What we are proposing to them is to develop a process team comprised of construction engineers, historians and other professionals to do a comprehensive plan of fire and life safety codes to insure all are addressed and that any upgrades do not take away from the building's venerable historical attributes."
In the letter Bullock states to Downing, "Because of the historical nature of the building and the scope of non-compliance, it is recommended a comprehensive plan of action for the facility be developed first, rather than the piece-meal corrective approach you have suggested."
Bullock offers his staff to assist by serving on the process team but told Downing Largo Fire and Rescue are unable to provide the other elements of expertise required to meet the objective.
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