Pittsburgh Sprinkler Vote Postponed

Oct. 17, 2018
Pittsburgh’s fire sprinkler bill is on hold after residents complained to City Council that the costs and inconvenience of retrofitting are “astronomical.”

Oct. 16 -- Pittsburgh’s fire sprinkler bill is on hold again after more than a dozen residents complained Tuesday to City Council that costs and the inconvenience of retrofitting older buildings would be “astronomical.”

“We can buy our own fire truck with a ladder that can reach as high as our top floor for what it would cost us to do this,” said Ted Goldberg, Ted Goldberg, an owner in the Park Mansion co-op building in Oakland.

He said installing sprinklers could disrupt the historical integrity of the 90-year-old building and cost as much as $2 million.

Council voted 7-2 to recommit the ordinance for consideration at Wednesday’s Standing Committee meeting, and members said they planned to postpone a vote until after a public hearing. The legislation would require owners of Pittsburgh buildings that are six stories or higher and lack sprinkler systems to install them within 13 years or face a maximum penalty of $1,000 per day.

Council last week also held off voting on the ordinance after hearing complaints from residents.

“I support the spirit of the bill,” said Councilwoman Erika Strassburger of Squirrel Hill. “I think that sprinklers are an incredibly important safety feature. However, there are unintended consequences clearly that we heard today in terms of cost and in terms of possible other consequences related to cost. There should be a more open and public process and time to consider all of the unintended consequences.”

Residents said the cost of retrofitting buildings would run into the millions and that condominium owners - many of them retirees - would be responsible for paying the tab. They complained that construction would require residents to move out temporarily and could cause structural damage to older buildings.

Ben Forman, 84, a resident at the 45-unit Winchester Condominiums in Oakland said residents would be forced to pay $30,000 to $35,000 apiece for a sprinkler system. He said attorneys have told him that condominiums should be grandfathered under the ordinance.

“It’s going to take ownership away from people in the city,” he said. “This is an easy way to push some over the hill and to have them move out of the city. I’m not happy unless there’s a caveat, which is something can be worked out with (condominiums).”

Council President Bruce Kraus of South Side and Councilwoman Darlene Harris of Spring Hill voted against postponement. Kraus said he promised Fire Chief Darryl Jones that he would support the ordinance and that he felt it was “the right thing to do at the right time.”

Harris said she was concerned that someone could be injured in a high-rise fire during the delay.

“Is money worth more than lives,” she asked.

Jones proposed the bill several weeks ago, saying sprinklers are proven to prevent injuries and extensive damages. He said about 430 buildings in the city are high-rises and that firefighters are in the process of inspecting them for sprinklers.

___ (c)2018 The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Visit The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.triblive.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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