Incentives for adding
sprinklers identified

A city panel will advise offering benefits
to condo owners who improve fire safety

A city advisory group has found some incentives that potentially could be offered for retrofitting about 300 older condominium buildings with fire sprinklers.

"None of these are done deals; none of these are in place," said Lloyd Rogers, chairman of the Residential Fire Safety Advisory Committee, of the incentives. The committee is made up of fire officials, city and state department heads, the Building Trades Council and condominium owner representatives.

The committee also found that there were greater fire damage and fire deaths in single-family dwellings than in high-rises, noted Rogers who is also a battalion chief with the Fire Prevention Bureau.

The mayor pushed the City Council for legislation requiring sprinkler systems after two high-rise fires in January. The requirement would cost the owners of about 12,600 condominium units between $5,000 and $10,000 each, the committee found.

A bill that would have given a tax credit to condominium owners for installing a sprinkler system in their buildings died in the state Legislature this session.

"If the government wants to have this because they feel it's important for health and safety reasons, they're going to have to provide incentives," said Jane Sugimura, a member of the advisory committee.

The committee will soon issue its report recognizing that sprinklers could minimize loss of property and lives.

"I think that's a given," said Sugimura, president of the Hawaii Council of Association of Apartment Owners, which does not support mandating sprinkler systems.

But the report also makes the point that "you can't have the retrofitting without these incentives," she said.

The City Council's Public Safety Committee will likely not recommend passage of legislation to require sprinkler systems in all residential high-rises, since the state tax credit bill failed, said city Councilman Gary Okino, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, based on his understanding of what the report contains.

"We'll probably go back to the Legislature next year and try again," Okino said. "We got to try to be fair and balance both ends, because it's very expensive. Safety is important, but it's hard to put that burden on these apartment owners."

Okino said it would be tough for the city to offer incentives.

Other incentives include a federal tax credit (which Congress has not yet passed), city property tax reduction, waiving fees for water meters and building permit fees, modifying requirements to retrofit elevators and low-interest city loans (which would place a lien on the property) for qualified owners on fixed incomes.

City & County of Honolulu

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