St. Cloud, Minn., is considering a revisal to its alarm ordinance, and the new changes would mean higher fines for alarm systems owners whose systems have false alarms.
The proposed ordinance revision, which would affect Section 490 of the city's 1977 Code of Ordinances, sets out a fee schedule of $25 for the first false alarm, $50 for the second false alarm, $150 for the third and fourth false alarms, and $500 for fifth and later false alarms.
In the ordinance language, the city echoes a thought that has been seen in many verified response ordinances, saying that "The city's police department has no obligation to respond to private alarms, they do so only as a public service."
While the ordinance does not propose a verified response policy, the language of the ordinance does say that its main intention is to reduce the number of false alarms and to reduce wastes of city resources.
The ordinance's definition of flase alarms does not include those alarms that are tripped by "climatic conditions such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, utility line mishaps, violent conditions of nature or any other conditions which are clearly beyond the control of the alarm manufacturers, installer or owner."
The most serious language in the ordinance applies to what happens after the fifth false alarm within a calendar year. The current language of the ordinance states that, "For a fifth or subsequent response to premises within the calendar year, a civil penalty of $500 shall be charged and the Police Chief in his/her discretion will inform the alarm user that the police deparment will no longer respond to their alarm."
According to Wendy Youngren, who serves on the Minnesota Burglar and Fire Alarm Association's alarm committee, the MBFAA is meeting with the city's attorney on Wednesday, March 16, 2005, to address concerns that dealers and monitoring companies have with the ordinance.
Youngren mentioned that the MBFAA has several issues with the current ordinance proposal, including:
- That the St. Cloud P.D. does not allow cancellations,
- No permitting process is in place,
- No grace period for first alarm,
- The proposed fee structure,
- The exempting of government facilities, including schools, and
- The lack of definition as far as to what types of alarms this ordinance revision would apply to.
Youngren added that the council is moving forward quickly on the legislation and is intending to vote on the ordinance revision on its March 28, 2005, council meeting.
"What's not in our favor," says Youngren, "is that Sartell, a nearby city, signed a similar ordinance and we (the MBFAA) weren't notified until it happened."
Interested readers can get in touch with the MBFAA using their website, www.mbfaa.org.
The St. Cloud, Minn., city council is online at the following link: http://ci.stcloud.mn.us/Web/departments/CityCouncil/councilindex.htm.