Fire Department Seeks Ordinance to Penalize Multiple False Alarms

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien proposed a new fee structure for his department to replace the one in place since 2008.
Part of that procedure, according to Division Chief of Fire Prevention Brian Johnson, is an ordinance creating fees for excessive false alarms.
O’Brien told the Council on Monday night that they had been working on this since March and had come up with a fee structure that would charge a $50 fee for greater than four false alarms but fewer than six.

More than six false alarms would generate a $100 fee.
Johnson said right now there is no ordinance and therefore no fee structure for false alarms.
He said the department has logged 267 false alarms in fiscal year 2013, and in order to bring that number down, a fee for excessive false alarms should be in place.
“We talked to surrounding towns, and when they enacted an ordinance like this, it kind of made the businesses maintain their system,” Johnson said. “They actually saw an 80 percent drop in false alarm calls because if there was no meat behind the ordinance, then we would just keep going out and telling them they had to maintain their systems.”
Councilor Tom Freda asked if there had to be six false alarms at one location for the fee to go up and Johnson said yes.
Freda said he thought that was lenient and the number of false alarms triggering the higher fine should be reduced.
Chairman John Farrell asked if there were places that the fire department was going that had six or more false alarms and Johnson said there were. He asked Johnson to get him the number of places generating six or more false alarms, as Johnson did not have the figure available.
Councilor Jim Butler asked how many false alarms other towns were allowing before implementing a fee and Johnson said three or four.
O’Brien said they chose six because the ordinance is new.
Councilor Tom Dolan said the Council was in agreement that an ordinance was needed and that Johnson should bring them his best effort. They would then have a discussion at a public hearing “with the ordinance in front of us.”
“Six is a lot,” Farrell said. “We can understand a few times but six times to the same place? You guys are trying to make a point. Make it.”
Dolan recommended that the first reading be accepted and a second reading be scheduled for Oct. 7, with a public hearing on Oct. 21. The recommendation was passed unanimously.

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