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Incentive aims to promote new sprinklers for old buildings

In March 2013, the El Rio Restaurant on Washington Street was heavily damaged when a fire in a second floor apartment of the building spread to the first floor restaurant and damaged two adjacent businesses.

It’s a scenario city and Main Street Vicksburg officials hope will be eliminated in the future through a program to make it easier for building owners to install fire suppression systems in their buildings.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved the Fire Sprinkler Assistance Program which provides an economic incentive for owners of buildings 50 years and older within the Main Street District to install sprinklers in their buildings.

Under the program, the city will install a tap from the waterline to the building and for the system at no charge. The property owner will pay the cost of installing the system.

Main Street director Kim Hopkins said the program is the result of meetings between city and Main Street officials to discuss a better way of getting the sprinkler systems in buildings in an efficient way.

Usually, when a sprinkler system is installed at a downtown building, Hopkins said, “They tear up the street, and that hurts the merchants, and it takes forever. Also, we were worried about the (water) pipe crossing the street.”

She said the group began looking at possible ways for a business owner to tap into an existing waterline closer to the building, “To see if it can be taken to the alley or find different ways (to access a line) than tearing up the street.”

To qualify for the program, the building where the sprinkler system is being installed must 50 years old or older and located within the Main Street District. It must not have any outstanding past due taxes or liens, and the system must be approved by the community development department

The applicant must complete an application and provide project plans and a timeline for completion. The plans must be prepared by a licensed, qualified fire sprinkler professional and a permit from the department of community development must be issued.

The applicant signs an agreement that all improvements to the property, including the sprinkler system, will be completed within a reasonable, specified time, and a copy of the agreement will be attached to the application for fire sprinkler assistance.

A panel of public works, community development and Main Street officials will determine whether to approve the application.

Once the application is approve public works official will schedule the installation of the sprinkler waterline tap within 60 days.

“We had the (El Rio) fire several years ago, and we were very lucky during that time that really only that building burned,” Hopkins said. “The other buildings got water and smoke damage, but they didn’t burn. We were very fortunate then, and since then, we’ve been talking about doing something like this.”