Update: Firefighters appeal to put public safety first; Council OKs changes to sprinkler ordinance

Update: Firefighters appeal to put public safety first; Council OKs changes to sprinkler ordinance

September 10th, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local - Breaking News

VIDEO

This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

Local burn coordinator for the International Association of Fire Fighters Ricky Boatwright speaks to members of City Council at the City Council Building today.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga City Council voted to approve changes to the sprinkler ordinance freeing most existing club and bar owners from installing sprinklers inside their buildings.

Councilwoman Carol Berz cast the only dissenting vote in the 8-1 decision.

Several firefighters and officials warned City Council members today that they are choosing business interests over public safety if they go along with changes to the city's sprinkler requirements.

Nearly a dozen firefighters and former fire officials showed up for today's City Council agenda session to express their concerns about the changes

"I implore you now not to now take steps backwards, said Ricky Boatwright, a member of the Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association. "Some businesses owners may question whether this is now cost effective for them to install sprinklers in this economy, but my question to you is can you not afford to install sprinklers?"

City officials said they are trying to balance the tension between hurting business owners with public safety. Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem said the firefighters appeal was emotional but not based in facts.

The ordinance that City Council members are expected to vote on during their regular meeting tonight would free existing bar and club owners from installing sprinklers, which business owners say costs between $50,000 and $70,000.

See tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details.