Home sprinkler bill appears headed to N.J. Legislature

But the measure has been facing legislative roadblocks
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Monday, January 16, 2012

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J.—A bill to require fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two-family homes in New Jersey likely will go before the state Legislature this year, now that the measure has cleared several legislative hurdles, according to the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, which is based here.

“I think it will get out of committee and be heard in both the Senate and the [General] Assembly,” David Kurasz, executive director of the advisory board, told Security Systems News on Jan. 10.

The bill has been embattled since it passed the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee in November.

It had to be hastily amended just as the full Assembly was to vote on it Dec. 15 because its Senate sponsor was unhappy with two provisions in it, Kurasz said.

One was a concern that the sprinkler requirement would be too costly for homes with well water. Kurasz said such homes would need to install a pump and tank in order to ensure an efficient water supply, at an estimated cost of $1,500 to $2,000.

So the bill was changed to say it would only apply to new homes on municipal water, he said.

The wording of the bill also was amended to make it clear it wouldn’t require an existing home to have sprinklers if it is sold to a new owner, Kurasz said. The previous wording of the bill was confusing to some, he said.

Although the Assembly approved the amended bill, the Senate sponsor, a Republican, still declined to support it, Kurasz said.

But now, he told SSN, “two strong Democrats are championing” the bill. He’s “very confident” the same bill will be introduced in the Assembly and in the Senate in the new session, which got under way in January.

If the bill does pass both houses, it may face opposition from Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Kurasz said. “But it’s our job in the course of the year to try to work on him to change his mind,” he said.
 
Home sprinkler legislation around the nation has been facing opposition from homebuilders, who contend the systems would add too much to the cost of new homes in the down economy.
But supporters say sprinklers save lives, are not very expensive and can be a selling point. The average cost per square foot nationally for sprinklers is $1.61. Kurasz said that in New Jersey, the cost runs from $2 to $2.40 per square foot.