At the request of several businesses in Milford, City Councilman Skip Pikus, Chairman of the Finance Committee, held an informational meeting on Monday, January 13 at City Hall regarding concerns about the City’s false alarm ordinance. According to Paul Mills, owner of Mills Brothers Markets and Kevin Reading, owner of Abbott’s Grill, false alarms at their businesses are causing them to pay excessive false alarm fees.
Under City Ordinance §75-4, businesses may have up to three false alarms without incurring penalties. After the third false alarm is reached, business owners receive a penalty that increases as more false alarms occur. The fourth and fifth false alarm incurs $50 in fines each; six to nine offenses incur $100 fines each; 10 to 15 offenses incur $200 fines each and 16 or more offenses in one calendar year incur $250 fines each. The number of false alarms for each business resets on January 1 of each year.
Vicky Knorr, Administrative Assistant for Milford Police Department, explained that when an officer responds to a false alarm, they enter the information in their computer-aided dispatcher software (CAD), which keeps a tally of the alarms in the system. At the end of each month, Ms. Knorr generates an invoice based on the number of alarms generated by the system. Invoices are due within 31 days, but she often allows additional time before sending a second notice. The second notice is followed up with a telephone call and if the invoice is still not paid, the invoice is returned to the issuing officer who turns the bill into a warrant.
“I appreciate you coming as quick as you do,” Mr. Reading said to Chief of Police Keith Hudson, who represented the Milford Police Department at the meeting. “I think if we were talking about fifty dollars at a time, I would not be here talking to you, but it has moved up to two hundred and fifty dollars each time. We are a fairly large business, but at the end of the year, we still struggle to pull a profit and hire employees.” Mr. Reading stated that due to false alarm penalties he paid $700 to Milford Police Department in 2011, $500 in 2012 and over $1,800 in 2013.
During the meeting, much discussion occurred regarding why the alarms were going off at both Abbott’s Grill and Mills Brothers. Mr. Mills stated that he had contacted his alarm company on numerous occasions to see what was causing the false alarms, while Mr. Reading believes many of the alarms at his business are caused by the street sweeper that passes by in the mornings between 3 and 5am. He explained that the street sweeper throws debris against the rear door of the restaurant, and this often sounds the alarm.
“I don’t want to get these early morning phone calls any more than the police want to come to my business for no reason,” Mr. Reading explained. “This is something I have no control over, and for me to have to pay two hundred and fifty dollars each time the street sweeper sets off my alarm seems egregious.”
City Manager Richard Carmean talked about why the ordinance was originally adopted in 1985, when he was the Chief of Police in Milford. “We had to implement this ordinance because without it, people just didn’t care,” stated Carmean. “There are fewer false alarms now than there used to be, mostly because technology has improved greatly, but we do not want people telling alarm companies not to call the police to avoid these fines. I agree with Mr. Pikus that the Police and Finance Committee need to sit down and review the ordinance to see where we may be able to adjust to make it more fair to businesses and to the police station.”
During the Council meeting on Monday night, Councilman Owen Brooks suggested that City Council discuss the matter as a workshop subject at an upcoming council meeting. Members of council voted unanimously to support the motion and requested that Terri Hudson, Milford City Clerk, schedule a workshop that would include public input into the matter to determine what, if any changes, are necessary to the ordinance.