Sprinkler Power: Yes on Prop. A

Public safety requires sprinklers in high-rises, but most county buildings lack these important fire-prevention devices because of the expense. The cost of removing asbestos and installing fire sprinklers in more than two dozen high-rise buildings is huge. Given the current dismal fiscal realities, the county budget cannot cover that expense without forcing even deeper sacrifices in other critical and competing services.

Proposition A, on the Tuesday ballot, would authorize a $100-million general-obligation bond issue to pay for the sprinklers. That cost, spread over 20 years, would boost the annual property tax bill on a house or business valued at $125,000 by only $1.32--a small price to pay to use a public building without fearing fire.

Fire sprinklers would have slowed the huge blaze on Feb. 15 that did more than $3 million in damage to the L.A. County Department of Health . No lives were lost primarily because the fire started on a Saturday when few people were in the building.

Thousands of people including children use county hospitals and office buildings every workday. Neither the public nor county employees or firefighters should be at risk of fire in these public buildings.

In better times, the county Board of Supervisors could consider paying this expense from the budget. In these strained times, financial realities dictate approving a general-obligation bond to pay for these needed improvements. Proposition A deserves a yes vote to make county high-rises safe from fire.

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