Proposal to enforce collection of alarm permit fees in Indiana town met with resistance

Merrillville attorney suggests the town stop responding to alarms at businesses that don’t pay

May 25--MERRILLVILLE -- Multiple town leaders oppose a proposed method of encouraging businesses to pay Merrillville's annual alarm permit renewal fee.

Town Attorney Matthew Brandabur recently said Merrillville has encountered issues involving businesses that have failed to pay the annual $25 charge. He suggested the town could stop responding to alarms at businesses that don't meet the alarm permit renewal obligations.

Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey said there are other options of getting businesses to pay the fee, including issuing fines.

"That makes me scared," Guernsey said of emergency personnel not responding to alarms.

Town Councilman Shawn Pettit agreed Merrillville should pursue a different method.

"You can't be selective on alarm calls," Pettit said.

Town Manager Bruce Spires said assessing fines might not be the answer because businesses that aren't paying the renewal fee probably wouldn't pay a fine.

Councilman Richard Hardaway suggested a different route could be ticketing those who don't pay the alarm fee. After receiving a citation, they would be required to go to Town Court, Hardaway said.

Skipping a court appearance would result in issues other than fines, said Hardaway, who also opposed Brandabur's proposal.

"They need to respond to every alarm call," he said of emergency responders.

Brandabur said his proposal was developed after he was told police stop responding to alarms at locations after multiple false alarms have occurred at those businesses.

Police Chief Joseph Petruch said Merrillville has no such policy, and police respond to all alarms.

Petruch said he personally works with businesses and alarm companies when police encounter issues with false alarms.

Merrillville Town Code indicates Petruch has the authority to revoke an alarm permit, which Petruch has done in the past, he said.

Revoking permits doesn't happen often. When it does occur, it's primarily at vacant buildings which are owned by people who can't be reached to address alarm system issues at their properties, Petruch said.



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