Article Courtesy of The Sun
By FALLAN PATTERSON
Published February 27, 2010
Representatives of Florida condominiums are hoping
the third time's the charm as they prepare for the next round in their
ongoing battle to push back, or eliminate, the deadline for older
buildings to retrofit their common areas with fire sprinklers.
Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill last year that
would have extended the deadline from 2014 to 2025. Condominium residents
and advocates are say the upgrades would be too costly to implement during
an economic slowdown and that the buildings do not need sprinkler systems
because they have fire safety plans already in place.
Pio Ieraci, president of the Galt Mile Community
Association, worked with Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, on HB
561 and with Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, on SB 1222, to create
legislation that would allow condo associations to decide for themselves
— by vote — whether to retrofit. A provision has also been added to
push back the deadline to 2019, but Ieraci said that would be irrelevant
if the bill passes.
"This affects over a million people,"
Ieraci said. "I expect it to be passed unanimously like it was last
Ieraci said Crist is convinced the sprinkler
retrofit has to do with safety. Former Gov. Jeb Bush also vetoed the
sprinkler retrofit bill in 2006.
"This is not a safety issue but an effort for
pipe fitters and other unions for millions of dollars in contracts,"
However, Sarah Maman, a fire protection engineer for
the North Miami Beach-based Fire, Life, Safety and Security Institute and
a member of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, said
several factors prove it's a safety issue.
"The contents burn and then smoke is the
killer," Maman said. "We have people getting older who tend to
live in high-rises, and they aren't going to go down 20 flights of
Maman cited a Feb. 4 Pompano Beach high-rise fire in
which all residents were evacuated and could not return for days. That,
she said, is a sign that it's not just the flames residents should be
concerned with but the smoke as well.
Additionally, Maman said firefighters have to fight
fires from inside high-rises, and sprinklers would keep them safe.
"It's going to be the condos vs. the
firefighters, so we'll see what happens," she said.
After Crist vetoed the bill last year, he asked for
a report from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The
report, released in October, stated that sprinkler retrofitting would
range in price from $503 to $8,633 per unit.
Maman said she is concerned the laws of supply and
demand will drive up prices if many buildings wait until the last minute
"If you keep waiting, everyone will be
scrambling to get it done and then the prices will soar," she said.