Council considers raising excessive false fire alarm fees


By Sheryl Roadcap - sroadcap@sidneydailynews.com



SIDNEY — An increase of the Sidney Fire Department’s administration fee for excessive false alarms was discussed Monday evening during the Sidney City Council teleconference meeting.

Deputy Fire Chief Dallas Davis led the discussion of the potential change to the false alarm fees. An administrative fee for excessive alarms was originally adopted by council in 1991. Davis pointed out the fee structure and maximum false alarm limit has not changed since the last revision in 2014.

“The current ordinance does not appear to be sufficient motivation for property owners to make the necessary repairs to the faulty alarm systems,” Davis said. “For example, one location was responsible or 12 overlapping false alarm call occurrences in 2019. In addition, the imposed fees do not fully recover current costs related to responding to excessive alarms. In short, the response to excessive false alarms drains resources and causes delays in responding to other emergencies.”

Currently, the fee is $125 for more than eight false alarms per year calendar year. The proposed change is $350 for more than eight false alarms in a calendar year. This proposed fee, Davis said, was calculated based on the cost of about $291.50 for a 30 minute false alarm response.

He explained the typical equipment and personnel costs for false alarm calls are as follows:

• Quint 3 — $178 per hour or $89 each half hour;

• Quint 2 — $121 per hour or $60.50 each half hour;

• Medic — $41 per hour or $20.50 each half hour;

• Shift commander — $40/hour or $20 each half hour;

• Lieutenant and seven firefighters — $29/hour or $14.50 each half hour equals $101.50.

Fire staff proposed the tally of false alarms to be converted to a 12 month “rolling experience period,” if a customer exceeds the eight alarm allowance in any two consecutive calendar years, until false alarms reduce below eight.

A brief discussion ensued about customers’ situations and possible options to consider. Mayor Mike Barhorst ask for a printout of categories broken down grouping customers who all have a certain number of false alarms. This will help determine what the fee should be based upon amounts of false alarms and also reveal the customers with excessive false alarms. Barhorst asked if customers with more than one business location are to be treated separately or are lumped together as a whole. He also asked for information to on all false alarms and the number of overlapping alarms coming into the fire department. Council member Steven Klinger asked for the average number of false alarms per year. Davis said fire staff would conduct research and agreed to return with the requested information at the next council meeting.

In other business, City Council adopted an ordinance to assess the cost of Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) program sanitary building drain inspection or repairs.

Litigation was initiated against those property owners who failed to have their building drain and building sewer inspected and/or failed to complete the necessary repairs, as identified by the inspection. Public Works Director Jon Crusey said the ordinance would assess the costs of the now-completed inspections/repairs as liens encumbering the affected properties.

Council was also introduced to, and then adopted as an emergency, an ordinance making supplemental appropriations for the year 2020, declaring such expenditures of funds and the undertaking of the projects necessary due to the public health emergency due to COVID-19; and authorizing the use of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for public safety payroll expenses. By declaring the ordinance an emergency, it will take effect immediately.

Council was introduced to an ordinance to amend sections pertaining to water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste collection rates.

The proposed water, sewer, stormwater and trash pick-up rate changes would increase the low volume user’s bill by $1.72 per month, Finance Officer Ginger Adams said. The average family of four will see an increase of $3.72 per month. The change in water and sewer rates would become effective Jan. 1, 2021. The change in refuse and stormwater rates would become effective April 1, 2021.

By Sheryl Roadcap

sroadcap@sidneydailynews.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.