R.I. Bill Would Give Businesses Tax Break for Installing Fire Sprinklers

June 26, 2007

Legislation entitling business owners to a tax credit if they are forced to install sprinklers or new fire alarms has stalled in the General Assembly, but the bill’s backers said they were hopeful it could still pass before the end of the session.

The bill would ease some of the fire code restrictions imposed on businesses following a February 2003 fire at a West Warwick nightclub that killed 100 people.

The legislation, an attempt to address complaints from business owners who are forced to comply with the new regulations, drew opposition last Thursday at a House Finance Committee hearing.

“There was not enough time to address the drastic changes,” said Providence Fire Chief George Farrell, a former Rhode Island state fire marshal. “I’m just not in favor of this piece of legislation.”

Business owners who need to install new fire alarms or sprinklers would be entitled to a tax credit of up to $10,000, though they could not claim it until 2009.

In addition, the legislation would give certain businesses with older, functioning alarms until 2012 to upgrade to a more modern alarm system. Business that lack a fire alarm entirely would have until 2009 to install one.

Farrell objected to language in the bill relating to fire alarm standards.

Rep. Peter Ginaitt, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that the legislation was “almost there” and that there was a chance it could pass before the General Assembly concludes the session.

“We don’t want to leave here without something approved,” said Ginaitt, a Warwick Democrat.

Rhode Island lawmakers developed a new state fire code after The Station nightclub disaster. The code largely eliminates the grandfathering clauses that allowed public buildings to avoid upgrades required under new building rules, and also required more sprinklers and alarms.

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Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.projo.com/

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