Alarm and inspection ordinances come back to New Milford public
NEW MILFORD — Residents will have another chance to comment on proposed fines for false alarms and people who refuse or ignore the town’s notices to allow officials to inspect their properties.
Draft ordinances on these issues were changed recently and will go back to public hearing on Jan. 14 before the Town Council can vote on them.
The biggest change is in the alarm ordinance that no longer has a “suspension-of-response” penalty if a fine isn’t paid in 30 days. Council members raised concerns about the possibility of police or firefighters not responding to an emergency because of this status.
Instead, the draft was revised so those who don’t pay may have a lien placed on their property — similar to Ridgefield’s ordinance.
New Milford established a burglar alarm ordinance in July 1981, but repealed it a few months later. A fire alarm ordinance was created in 2003.
The idea of the ordinance is to address malfunctioning alarms so they can be fixed and allow the firefighters and police to respond to actual emergencies because there would be fewer false alarms.
Under the proposed ordinance, the mayor will appoint two administrators: one to oversee the fire false alarms and another to oversee the burglar false alarms. Each administrator will use input from the reports compiled by the people on the scene and have discretion on issuing a fine.
The proposed fine schedule shows no fine will be given for the first alarm, a $50 penalty if two false alarms happen, $100 for three false alarms and $150 for four or more false alarms. The alarm tally only applies for a 12-month period and the fire and police alarms are counted separately.
There will also be an alarm appeals board if someone disagrees with the administrator’s decision.
At a previous council meeting Councilman Michael Nahom worried the fines might encourage business owners to delay the alarm company from calling the police until the owner can assess if it’s a real call, which is dangerous.
The request for the burglar alarm ordinance came from the police department as a way to decrease the number of false calls.
In 2016, the department received about 1,380 burglary alarms, of which two were actual burglaries. In 2017 those figures were about 1,510 and four, respectively, and so far in 2018 there have been about 780 burglary alarms, of which two were actual burglaries, Town Attorney Matt Grimes has said.
The only change to the inspection ordinance from earlier versions, meanwhile, adds the associated costs for town employees to go to court.
Under the overall ordinance change, any property that forces the town to go to Superior Court to obtain a search warrant so the fire marshal can inspect it will face a $200 fee, as well as the associated costs, such as mileage for the town employees to go to court.
The fire marshal inspects properties in town for numerous reasons, including new construction or a routine inspection of a business. This process requires a phone call, then a letter, followed by a certified letter and if there is still no response, the town can file for a search warrant.
Staff requested the $200 fee because town officials have to spend half a day to get the warrants at court in Torrington.