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The Smart Way to Find a Fire Sprinkler Contractor

Downtown Austin Adding Fire Safety

Friday

Fire safety news from the Post-Bulletin.com: "Austin's effort to revitalize downtown is confronted with several long-range problems, such as parking and access to upper levels of buildings, according to city officials.

A third issue relates to finding ways to help older, downtown structures meet today's building codes, particularly by installing fire sprinkler systems, and Austin City Council is supporting a proposed program to help in that endeavor.

Council members voted 6-1 at a work session Tuesday to recommend Port Authority designate an initial $200,000 in funds for low- or no-interest loans to owners of older buildings downtown to install sprinkler systems. The proposal is for buildings 80 years or older.

Several downtown buildings date to the 1880s and 1890s.

The 10-year loans also could be made to upgrade electrical systems in the older buildings, which would decrease the risk of fire, City Administrator Jim Hurm said.

The program could help revitalize downtown and save lives and structures, Hurm said. The fire department is concerned with an entire downtown block burning down, as the buildings are connected, he said.

In a memorandum to the council, Hurm stated the loan program's first priority should be the older buildings that are connected.

The nonprofit Austin Main Street Project, which aims to revive downtown, would administer the funds. Money for the program would come out of Port Authority's budget, which would be in addition to the roughly $760,000 it already has for downtown revitalization, officials said.

Council member Dick Pacholl voted against supporting the program, saying he wouldn't get that kind of loan offer as a homeowner. It's the building owner's problem to handle, he said.

His son and fellow council member Scott Pacholl disagreed, saying the program makes sense considering the money the city already has invested in reviving downtown. If buildings burn down, the city's investment is wasted, he said.

Several insurance agents, according to Hurm, have told him an older building's insurance rate could be reduced by 20 percent to 50 percent with the installation of a sprinkler system, depending on various factors. An electrical-system upgrade could lead to another 7 percent to 10 percent decrease in insurance for an older building."

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