ZEPHYRHILLS — Several months after repealing an ordinance requiring businesses to install fire sprinklers, the City Council approved an incentive package to encourage businesses to add the sprinklers on their own.
The incentives will come in the form of adjustments to permit fee costs for the building and fire departments, and a limited waiver on city taxes. The breaks should not exceed $3,000 in taxes or $30,000 total incentives.
The goal is to help business owners bring their buildings into compliance with National Fire Protection Association standards.
People will have to apply to the building department to receive the money. The building and fire departments will review the applications.
On Monday night, the City Council also approved a bid for the installation of a sprinkler and alarm system in the downtown fire station.
The council voted unanimously to accept a $50,008 bid from BCI Integrated Solutions for a combined sprinkler and alarm system for Fire Station No. 2. The bid from BCI was not the lowest bid, but fire Chief Keith Williams said the firm won because it was the only company to submit all necessary materials with its application.
Williams said it is the perfect time to put the project out to bid because of the down economy. "When you think about the fact that this is the combined bid for the fire alarm and sprinkler system and the complexities of the building from the renovations that have happened over the years and the age of the building, I'd say any of the bids are a fair bid," Williams said.
In other news, City Manager Steve Spina reported on a recent meeting between city staff, Florida Department of Transportation secretary Stephanie Kopelousos and state Rep. Will Weatherford on the plans to widen U.S. 301.
DOT proposes turning the downtown stretch of U.S. 301 into a one-way street heading north. All southbound traffic would be diverted to Sixth Street, which is already one-way. Eventually, both streets would be widened to three lanes.
City officials have been critical of the plans, which they worry would turn downtown into a high-speed thoroughfare. But on Monday night, Spina said he felt positive about the city's meeting with Kopelousos and Weatherford. Spina said the Tampa branch of the DOT has requested a breakdown of exactly what the city wants from the project, and that staff will work closely with DOT staff to ensure the city's needs are being met.
The city is asking for bike lanes, on-street parking and sidewalks to be included in the plans for both directions of U.S. 301. The goal is to help slow down traffic moving through the business corridor, council president Jodi Wilkeson said.
The city is also interested in taking over control of a stretch of U.S. 301 from the state.