Council Introduces False Alarm Ordinance

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By Terry Rogers

On Monday, March 24, City Solicitor David Rutt introduced the False Alarm Ordinance for council members to review. The new ordinance replaces previous ordinances that several business owners said were excessively punitive. In addition, at the January 27, council meeting, Mr. Rutt informed council that there was a possibility that the current ordinance could be considered unconstitutional. City council authorized Mr. Rutt to revise the ordinance and present it to them for their review.

“The changes made to the ordinance follow what was discussed at the recent workshop,” Mr. Rutt explained. “The biggest change is that violations are no longer criminal. Instead, any violations of the ordinance will fall under a civil violation, which eliminates the need to go through JP Court to prosecute offenders.” Mr. Rutt also explained that there is now an appeals process included in the ordinance, although it does not yet specify where the appeals will take place. Mr. Rutt suggested that the appeals process be handled by JP Court.

“I believe having JP court handle the appeals process is the better option,” Councilman Doug Morrow said. City Manager Richard Carmean explained that the fines collected would continue to be shown as a revenue stream for the police department, but that the city was still working on the logistics of who would collect the fees.

“We could continue to have the fines mailed to the police department and have Chief Hudson’s administrative assistant open them,” Mr. Carmean said. “She could then forward to our accounting department with paperwork as we do now, but regardless of how we collect the fees, the money collected will be used to support the police department.” There was no vote on the ordinance as it was only introduced to council for review.

In other council business, council voted to rescind Ordinance 2014-02, voted on at a previous council meeting, which authorized the abolishment of the meter department. Mr. Carmean explained that, although there was no need for the department at the present time, there could be a need for it in the future, so it was recommended that they simply not staff the department.

“It seems smarter to leave the department as it is,” Councilman Skip Pikus said. “If we do need it in the future, it will just be a matter of staffing it at that time.” The board voted unanimously to rescind Ordinance 2014-02.

City council also voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with Lighthouse Christian Center to provide utilities, including water, sewer and electric to Lighthouse Estates, a subdivision being developed on Carpenter Pit Road. The project has been in process for several years, and the agreement confirms that the subdivision will provide city utilities.

“This is a pretty standard agreement,” Mr. Carmean said. “All utilities must be built to city specifications. Lighthouse Christian Center has already signed off on their portion of the agreement.” Mr. Rutt confirmed that the agreement was standard, and said that even if council voted to approve it, they did not have to sign the agreement until the work is completed to city specifications.

Council also voted to transfer $12,700 to cover additional costs incurred for engineering reviews related to the project. According to Mr. Carmean, some of the approvals for the project had expired since it had begun several years ago, requiring a review of some of the engineering processes.

“There were some changes necessary,” Mr. Carmean said. “The bulk of the fees will be paid by Lighthouse Christian Center, but we will need to cover this portion.”