Paul Mills, of Mills Brothers Markets, and Kevin Reading, of Abbott's Grill, met with three city councilmen, Milford's city manager Richard Carmean and Milford Police Department Chief Keith Hudson Monday morning at City Hall to discuss grievances associated with outstanding fees they have accrued throughout 2013 due to police responding to false alarms from their businesses.
Two local businesses are asking city officials to review a 28-year-old ordinance regarding fines associated with responding to false alarms.
Paul Mills, of Mills Brothers Markets, and Kevin Reading, of Abbott’s Grill, met with three city councilmen, Milford’s city manager Richard Carmean and Milford Police Department Chief Keith Hudson Monday morning at City Hall to discuss grievances associated with outstanding fees they have accrued throughout 2013 due to police responding to false alarms from their businesses.
Mills Brothers Markets and Abbott’s Grill are two of about seven local businesses with outstanding fines. Milford Police Department Administrative Assistant Vicky Knorr said that the majority of businesses, or about 95 percent, fined for false alarms are up-to-date on their payments.
According to the ordinance, businesses and individuals are granted three free passes on false alarms, which is intended to give businesses time to consult with alarm companies to see if there are issues with the system. After the three freebies, any false alarm eliciting police response is met with a fine, starting at $50 for the fourth and fifth false alarms, $100 for the sixth through ninth, $200 for the 10th through 15th and $250 for more than 16 false alarm offenses.
The fine schedule begins fresh each year, with a new year bringing three chances for a business to resolve any security system issues to avoid future false alarms and fines. The ordinance, which was originally established in 1985 with input from Carlisle Fire Company, was revisited in 2003 to add the third free false alarm and to reduce the fines, which previously started at $150 per offense.
The ordinance was originally established to ensure the safety of the public by avoiding unnecessary police response. The police department currently enforces the ordinances and sends out the notices for payment of fines, as generated by the department’s computer-aided dispatcher (CAD) software. The police department expects payment within 31 days of notice, but Milford Police Department Administrative Assistant Vicky Knorr said she tries to give businesses a little leniency by offering second notices and courtesy calls to obtain payment.
Mills and Reading argued that with the amount they already pay toward city services, especially for electric utilities, that the increasing fine schedule for false alarms is too much.
“I think these fines are a little ridiculous,” Mills said, stating that his business has never been fined for false alarms until recently. He cited possible power surges as a reason for the false alarms.
However, Hudson pointed out that the CAD system documents the source of each false alarm that comes with a fine, stating that none of the false alarms from Mills Brothers Markets were the result of a power surge. Hudson said that at least one false alarm was due to an employee and the security company testing the system without setting it to test mode.
Mills, who was surprised at the age of the ordinance, said that he does not want to result in requesting that his alarm system provider avoids calling the police department just to avoid fines.
Reading agreed that he does not want to forgo his business’ security to avoid paying fines, but that the way the fee schedule is set up, it makes it difficult for a local business to afford paying $250 for each offense.
Reading, who paid a total of $500 in 2011 and $700 in 2012 for false alarm fines, now owes the police department nearly $2,000 for false alarm fines because of the higher rates that come with and excess of 16 false alarms per year.
“If they were $50, I wouldn’t be standing here,” Reading said.
Reading said that the ordinance should be revisited by council to make it more manageable for local businesses that may not be able to control alarm malfunctions.
Reading said that some of the false alarms have resulted from the opening of Abbott’s Grill, when the opening employee may set off the alarm without realizing it. But the majority of the false alarms from Abbott’s Grill come in the early morning hours, from a barely used garage door at the back of the restaurant.
Reading suspects that the alarm is triggered when the street sweeper comes by that back door, possibly flinging debris that sets off the alarm. He is now considering disabling that door, as it is the main source of the excessive fines for his business.
“It’s very frustrating because it’s something I have no control over,” Reading said.
Councilmen Bryan Shupe, Garrett Grier and Allen S. “Skip” Pikus agreed that the ordinance should be revisited and possibly fine-tuned. Pikus brought the issue up at Monday night’s regular city council meeting for introduction and council decided to include the discussion in a future council workshop session.