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July 8, 2008

 

Marathon haunted house in jeopardy

Group that organizes event does not have money to bring civic center up to code.

By CHRISTINE LAUBENSTEIN
Staff Reporter
claubenstein@cortlandstandard.net

MARATHON — Thousands of dollars in needed upgrades to bring the village’s Civic Building up to code for an annual haunted house has forced the group that organizes the Halloween event to abandon it.
The Cortland County Young Marines lacks money to fix code violations the state discovered last year, said Rich Holl, the unit’s commanding officer. The Young Marines began the haunted house  four years ago.
The building needs fire alarms, sprinklers, fire-resistant material for makeshift walls and proper exit doors.
“We just don’t have the means,” Holl said.
Insurance is also an issue, he said. Liability insurance through the National Young Marines organization might not cover an accident inside the building, which is located on the corner of Peck Avenue and Brink Street.
“I don’t know if we’re covered locally,” Holl said.
The state Department of Labor discovered the code violations in October.
Village Mayor John Pitman said the village, which owns the Civic Building, would be willing to put forth some money for liability insurance or to bring the building up to code for a haunted house.
The village needs a list of what exactly has to be fixed and what the cost of the repairs and insurance would be, he said.
Holl said the Young Marines recently decided they do not want to take the time to do that research or engage in fundraising.
“With everything we went through last year we decided that was not the emphasis of our program, and to not keep focusing so much energy on that,” he said.
Holl said he hopes another organization, such as a Boy Scouts group, booster club or church group, will take over the haunted house so it can continue in the community.
“Maybe someone else has the means or creativity, because like I said it’s an awfully fun activity to do,” he said, noting more than 100 volunteers help with the event, hundreds attend it and several thousands of dollars are raised for local community groups.
A state building inspector last year ordered the Young Marines to either fix the violations or shut down the haunted house. Holl decided to shut down the event.
But after hundreds of people showed their support for the haunted house, partly through signing a petition, the state agreed to a temporary fix.
It allowed the event to be held at the end of October provided it was just one day, instead of the usual two.
Improvements to the facility had to be made, including the addition of 12 battery-operated smoke detectors, four glow-in-the-dark exit signs and a volunteer fireman at each door with a fire extinguisher and a fire radio.
The $300 cost of those improvements was bearable, Holl said, so the Young Marines were able to hold the event.
The compromise did not extend past last year.
Holl said he wonders how other haunted houses around the state can exist, given all the requirements in place. Still, he said he understands the value of the requirements. “It’s a tough question and generally speaking the safety of the community has to come first,” he said.
According to Leo Rosales, spokesman for the state Department of Labor, the department has 42 inspectors that go around the state and inspect amusement parks and haunted houses.
Each park or house must have a special permit, which the Marathon haunted house never applied for.

 

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