Salisbury Seeking Lower Alarm Fines

SALISBURY – To have false alarm fees become more equitable with today’s cost for fire and police response, the Salisbury City Council is looking to revamp the fine structure.

According to City Administrator John Pick, the city’s police and fire departments experience a severe drain on their resources making repeated responses to the same properties in response to false alarms.

For many years, the city has had an ordinance that included a graduated fee schedule for fire and police false alarms. The purpose of the fee schedule is to encourage property owners to maintain and use their alarm systems to reduce the incidence of false alarms.

However, the city has determined the current fee schedule exceeds the actual cost for either the police or fire departments to respond to false alarms and in order to ensure enforcement of the fee schedule, the fees should not exceed the cost to respond.

The ordinance change proposed is to amend the fees so that they are equal to the cost to respond. To continue encouragement for alarm users to maintain their alarm systems to avoid false alarms, the provision to allow the issuance of a municipal infraction after four false alarm calls to the same property within a calendar year was suggested.

Also, the fine for the municipal infraction can be increased between $500 and $1,000 if the problem at a particular property persists.

According to the current ordinance, if the fire and/or police departments respond to more than two false alarms at the same location within a calendar year response fees will be charged to the property owner.

City Solicitor Mark Tilghman explained the actual fee structure will be set by resolution, and the purpose of the legislation before the City Council this week was to determine the current fee schedule to be inappropriate and allow authorization for those fees to be reset. A separate resolution with the proposed fees will be available at second reading of the ordinance.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell concluded she supports the reasoning behind the false alarm fee schedule as well as the amendment to lower the costs.

“People need to be aware that if you do have repeated false alarms and you don’t get them repaired … that you are going to be subject to paying these fees for doing that because that is taking away services from other people that need the service and it is costing the city’s taxpayers money…but I am concerned of how we are going to make that equitable within the fire district,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the amendment of false alarm fees.