Installing fire-fighting sprinkler systems in downtown basements means getting new water lines, and downtown officials want the city to help pay for them.
Downtown Lawrence Inc. wants the city to spend more than $650,000 to help 65 downtown buildings get necessary fire protection.
Myles Schachter, representing the downtown business association, asked Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners to include a handful of downtown water-line upgrades in the city's upcoming five-year capital improvements plan.
The upgrades would allow for installation of fire-fighting sprinkler systems in buildings with inaccessible basements. While such buildings are targeted for a new fire code provision that would require sprinklers to be installed, the city's own water lines in the area likely cannot handle the load for such use, Schachter said.
The city should install new water mains, a prospect already being reviewed by the city's own utilities department, he said. The costs of such pipes typically are borne by the city at large.
The city should pick up other costs as well, Schachter said: $5,000 for each new 4-inch line connecting the main to each building, plus another $5,000 "connection charge" for each hookup. Business or property owners would be responsible for the remaining $5,000 of work required inside each building.
"To place the entire burden of these improvements on the downtown property owners would likely drive many (of) their tenants out of business," Schachter said in his written application submitted Wednesday night.
The proposed sprinkler requirement has been recommended by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, and comes after a basement fire nearly destroyed Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 802 Mass., nearly two years ago.
"A basement fire in one downtown building can easily and quickly spread to an entire block of stores or worse," Schachter said in the application.
Commissioners plan to accept applications through the end of the month, then allow staffers to review projects for inclusion in the plan, which would be approved this spring -- in time for the Lawrence City Commission's budget decisions for 2000.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.