Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I need to get the hell away from these people

I just spent a half an hour watching a county council session where Council Bill 5 was discussed. CB 5 is a bill that could require sprinkler systems in single family homes. According to one of the fire department spokespeople, sprinklers add about $1.60 per square foot to the cost of a home. I'll take that as an accurate figure, even though it seems absurdly low for a home not on public water (which would require a pump and tank to allow the sprinklers to work). So let's say you have a 2,500 square foot home (pretty modest for HoCo), you are looking at an additional expense of $4,000.

Is it right to require a prospective homeowner to pay for a $4,000 sprinkler system in their new home? Maybe that person would rather be extra careful not to burn their house down and spend that money on something else. That $4,000 could be put to a range of other uses. Perhaps the homeowner would prefer to put that money into a safer car (since there is much greater chance of being killed in a car accident than a house fire). Perhaps the homeowner would prefer to put that $4,000 into a home gym to keep themselves in physical shape. Or maybe they would rather have granite counter tops. Whatever. The point is that a sprinkler system is not necessarily what the prospective home builder would want to spend their money on. It is extremely arrogant for the county council to think they have the moral authority to spend our money for us.

Mary Kay Sigaty asked the one person who expressed concern about the price of sprinklers something like "how can you put a value on human life?" Guess what, Mary Kay? By spending your evenings with your fellow council members instead of working out a the gym, you are putting a value on your own life.

And of course, all the fire department spokespeople where there to make the case in support of this bill. Interestingly, not one of them suggested that fewer firefighters would be needed if sprinklers were mandated in new homes. It's funny how that works, huh? Many of the fire department representatives were not even from Howard County. Despite that, one fire department union guy from Ohio gave a shout out to the Local 2000, which is the Howard County fire department union. Unions are out to benefit themselves, not the public. The Local 2000 makes that case very nicely. I used to be a volunteer firefighter in HoCo, and it was well known among volunteers that if the Local 2000 officials could snap their fingers and make us all go away, they'd do it in a second. Why did they want to do away with volunteers? To make the public safer? Uh, no. To create more jobs for themselves, natch.

Seriously, County Council. Mind your own freaking business.

Update: A statement about the hypocrisy of an unnamed council member and related comments have been removed, since that appears to have begun generating more interest than the merits of the argument I am making.


Anonymous said...

Love that title. On a good day it's uttered under my breath only once.

Glad to know you're attending council sessions. I don't have the stomach but am compelled from time to time. Complainers say everyone should go, but I see clearly why most voters opt out.

Being staticstically inclined, I'd need to know the annual risk of death from fire in Howard County. I'd need to know by fire dept the deaths in a year compared to the population in the fire dept's area. I'd want to know the rate of sprinkler malfunction and property damage risk. That would be a start at dismantling the potential mandate.

Mandate that home builders give buyers an option, if the council is bent on mandating something in order to feel they've 'worked so so hard'.

Freemarket said...

Thanks for the comment, good points. I should clarify that I was watching it on TV, I was not there in person.

wordbones said...


When we built our home four years ago the builder was required to offer us the option of a sprinkler system. I seem to recall that the price was right around $4K. We calculated that the savings on insurance did not justify the expense for the lenghth of time we planned to be in the home. I thought that approach worked just fine.


PZGURU said...

Wordbones and FM have the right angle on this issue. The homeowner should have the OPTION. No government body should mandate this crap. It only seves to drive up the cost of building a home. Even worse, if there is a SMALL fire in a home with a sprinkler system, the system goes off, and the water damage is far more extensive that what the fire would have caused.
Unions - how much better would the world be without them?

Eludius said...

I agree that single-family homes should not be required to have sprinkler systems. Apartments and townhouses on the other hand - people have no control over the actions of their drunk and stoned neighbors who build campfires in the middle of the living room. I wouldn't want my town house burned down because of the actions of others.

And how can you watch those shows? I've tried. I get 2 minutes into it and I'm done! They start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher.

PZGURU said...

Eludius - good distinction between single family homes and attached homes. I agree with your point.

Anonymous said...

Imagine that...a firefighters' union spokesperson advocating the use of sprinkler systems that make homes safer. You think he was there to drum up business for firefighters? On the contrary, it's like a CVS cashier advocating the use of self-checkout.

Volunteer or on the payroll, mandatory sprinklers may end up reducing future firefighter headcount.

Check your logic.

Freemarket said...

Anon, don't be so naive. None of these union folks are EVER going to suggest that fewer firefighters will be needed. It's always more, more, more.