Honolulu City Council Fails to Override Mayor's Veto of Fire Sprinkler Extension

Dec 5, 2018

Marco Polo condominium fire, July 14, 2017.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council failed to override the Mayor’s Veto of an important fire sprinkler bill.

 

 

 

Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves and other firefighters urged Councilmembers to let the veto stand.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The Honolulu City Council considered a veto override that would require 6 out of the 9 member votes.   Bill 72, allows high-rise condominiums without fire sprinkler systems an additional 2 years to complete a life system evaluation and retrofit.  Honolulu Fire Department Chief, Manuel Neves, accompanied by a half-dozen firefighters, pleaded to Councilmembers to let the veto stand.

 

“July 14, 2017, the day of the Marco Polo, was one of the worst days of my life.  It’s that day that I had to send 120 of my firefighters into that raging fire.  We had 2 ‘May-Days’ and a ‘May-Day’ is when a firefighter is either lost or they think they’re gonna die.  We were lucky we didn’t have any injuries.  But, sprinklers buy time and what time buys is life.  So, please, I beg you, don’t override the veto.”

 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell vetoed Bill 72
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Mayor Kirk Caldwell spoke out last week against a city council override of his veto.  He says extending the retrofit timeline puts seniors on fixed incomes in non-sprinkler high rises at risk.

 

“I’m not backing away from that.  And I’m sensitive to our seniors that live in highrises. I don’t want them to die.  I don’t want them to burn alive.  I want to save them.  And, yes, it may cost some money to do so but it’s nowhere near what people are saying.”

 

Councilmember Carol Fukunaga urged colleagues to override the mayor's veto
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

But, Councilmember Carol Fukunaga says many seniors want to delay the costs of a retrofit and high rise condo associations are also asking for more time.

 

“Their buildings are not able to comply because they can’t get lists of professionals to assist them in the life safety evaluation process.  The Fire Department has not provided it’s list of recommendations which was due on December 1.  And, so, for those reasons, I urge that we support the override.”

 

Following the discussion, Council Chair Ernie Martin called on City Clerk Glen Takahashi to tally the vote.

 

“Mr. Chair, there are 5 ayes, 3 no’s and one member is absent.  Thank you, Mr. Clerk.  The bill has failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Council and shall be deemed finally lost.

 

HFD Chief Neves

Following the city council’s vote, Fire Chief Neves said the department is concentrating on the 150 or so buildings that are high risk and pose the greatest danger.  He also reiterated that the cost of a retrofit is a concern but it’s not as bad as its being portrayed.

 

“We have a building right now that’s being retrofitted and the cost came in at $8-thousand per unit and with the $2-thousand homeowner’s exemption credit, it comes out to $6-thousand per unit.  For $6-thousand for each unit, they can do the entire lobby, the hallways and the individual apartments.”

 

For HPR news, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.