Communities in Illinois county engaged in municipal monitoring

The city of McHenry, Woodstock, Crystal Lake and Algonquin are now engaged in municipal monitoring within McHenry County, Ill. The recent development means business taken away from the private alarm monitoring companies-EMERgency24, Stand Guard and Alarm Detection Systems, to name a few-and increased monitoring costs for business owners within those areas. And many of those business owners are "quite irate" according to Kevin Lehan, executive director of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA).

A majority of real estate owners understand the impact this has on their multi-tenant locations and "are pretty upset about this" Lehan referenced. Real estate owners with multi-tenant facilities are potentially faced with an annual increased amount of an estimated "$10,000 additional cost that they would be responsible for to cover the alarm monitoring mandated by the ordinance" Lehan explained.

As a result, IESA wrote and sent letters to Mayor Low of McHenry, as well as city councils and fire district protection boards in those areas explaining the impact of their decisions and requesting their response to further discuss their actions. In another letter sent to 300 precinct committeemen in the county of McHenry, the IESA questioned where and when the decision to enable municipal monitoring took place and the methods taken to allow this to occur within those communities of McHenry County.

"Our call to action in the committeemen letter was 'call me if you want to be the champion of the free market and private industry' and several people have taken us up on that," Lehan explained.

He referenced one county commissioner who "is on our side," as well as the state's manufacturer association and the chamber of commerce.

When regarding fire districts pushing for municipal monitoring, the county commissioner explained "they see the revenue stream of the private alarm monitoring industry and are salivating-they want that revenue stream."

Yet the fight does not stop there. Addressing a roomful of attendees during last month's IESA meeting, held in Elk Grove Village, Ill., IESA long-time lobbyist Dick Lockhart stated, "The strength that you demonstrated earlier this year in Springfield, you cannot relax. Fire officials will figure out ways to extract some kind of benefits."

"The value of an alarm company is based on the equation of multiplying recurring monthly revenue by the number of subscribers by a multiple that is variable-based on quality of accounts," Lehan explained. "When you have subscribers taken away from you by an ordinance and there is a mandate that business owners must contract within a community, then those companies lose the operating cash from recurring monthly revenue. And they lose the capital value if they ever decide to sell those accounts. The loss of operating revenue will hurt businesses immediately," he said.

Lehan added that the IESA wants communities to realize the impact this has not only on the alarm dealer but the negative impact on the community as far as public safety.

"Public safety will suffer," he stated. "911 centers will be flooded with calls and there will be more emergency traffic moving through communities. Fire districts don't have the ability to filter alarms like we do. Their procedures are to dispatch. There is no upside to this except for the short-term budgets of a couple of communities."

He explained that the only way for private alarm monitoring companies, affected by the municipal monitoring in McHenry communities, to regain their accounts is to "First, pressure city councils to drop the mandate and allow us to compete. Then, have them choose to not be in our industry-the alarm monitoring business. And that is what we want to ultimately happen," he said.

Among the other developments that may affect private alarm monitoring companies in Illinois is that of service taxes.

"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, when asked where he was going to get the funding to keep the city out of debt, alluded to taxing services without being too specific," Lockhart shared at the IESA meeting.

"In aggregate, with a service tax added to the state and City of Chicago taxes, this would likely push the overall tax rate past double digits," Lehan added. "It would certainly have an impact on us."

During the electoral campaigns in the run for City of Chicago mayor, than candidate Rahm Emanuel received a number of criticisms from other mayoral candidates but none as bold as Gery Chico's, who depicted that the proposed service tax would be part of a plan that would include a quarter-point cut in the city sales tax, according to the Chicago Tribune. The proposed tax would increase taxes by nine percent on everyday services such as Internet access, home repair and more.

Yet the bottom line, as Lockhart explained, is that "those elected officials who are going to be voting on such matters will want to be elected next year. What we need to do is take advantage of the time we have now," he said.

"Summer is the time for alarm dealers to get to know their elected officials," added Lehan. "The elected officials are all now in their district offices. Calling them up and talking to them about an issue that is important to you will make all the difference. Mayor Emanuel will have to be re-elected, too. If there are enough voices against a proposed service tax, that will certainly get his attention. Elected officials have to listen to their constituents and that is one of the things that we are pushing for. Our membership needs to talk to their elected officials about keeping our industry exempt," he concluded.

For more information regarding the private alarm industry's fight against municipal monitoring, be sure to visit While the Web site is online right now, the IESA plans to have the site revamped, redesigned and updated with current information by August.