City Council approves changes to sprinkler ordinance
After weeks of debate, the Chattanooga City Council voted to make changes to a 2011 ordinance that would have forced several local businesses to install pricey sprinkler systems.
Council members are hoping to take the burden off business owners, but fire officials say they are choosing business interest over public safety.
In a last minute plea, Chattanooga Fire Chief Lamar Flint asked the city not to back down from forcing bars, clubs, and lounges to install sprinkler systems.
"It's my hope and I ask this council not to vote for this ordinance," said Chief Lamar Flint, Chattanooga Fire Dept.
A shared opinion among former fire officials.
Former Chief Randy Parker voiced his reasons for backing the ordinance in 2011.
"Most of us that are here tonight have been involved in fatal fires where we've had to pull people out of buildings. We don't want to see that happen again," said Randy Parker, Former Fire Chief.
But council members sided with business owners.
Business owners say installing the systems, that cost between $50,000 - $70,000 would put them out of business.
"It's just not right to single out one small group of small business owners when the city owned tivoli and memorial auditorium for example don't have sprinklers," said Former Mayor Jon Kinsey.
Former fire marshal James Whitmire, who was instrumental in the creation of the original ordinance, says cost was considered.
He says public safety should come first.
"This is a proactive approach. The system is already in place. We understood the expense of it when we started three years ago. That's why we gave them the additional time," said James Whitmire, Former Chattanooga Fire Marshal.
Councilwoman Dr. Carol Berz was the only one to vote against the ordinance, which passed 8 to 1.