winnetka-fire-officialsProperty owners of older buildings in Winnetka have a new incentive to install fire sprinklers in their buildings. In an effort to work with building owners and encourage economic development, the village created a rebate program for older buildings that must retrofit fire sprinklers when there is a change of occupancy use. The program is an effort to encourage fire sprinkler retrofits in Winnetka’s three business districts, which have many buildings that are over 100 years old. Fire sprinklers are already required in newer buildings.

The new rebate program is an amendment to the original fire sprinkler ordinance from 1977. It allows property owners to apply for reimbursement from the Community Development office for fees related to the fire sprinkler installation. The rebated fees are inclusive of plan review, water tap, and street and/or right-of-way openings. As another incentive, property owners also can defer the installation of a new water service for up to five years.

“This was a concerted effort by the Village Council to continue to improve fire safety in the village, while taking some of the financial burden off of the business community,” says Winnetka Fire Chief Alan Berkowsky.

“We are only the second community in Illinois to establish a fire sprinkler rebate program,” adds Bernie Arends, fire inspector for the Winnetka Fire Department.

Last year, the southwest suburban city of Lockport and the Lockport Township Fire Protection District instituted similar incentives and tax rebate programs for fire sprinkler retrofits.

“This is an example of progressive elected officials voting to do what is best for their businesses and citizens,” says Tom Lia, fire safety advocate and executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. “Winnetka is setting the fire safety example for all mayors, alderman and trustees throughout Illinois.”