Council raises fees with new alarm policy

Bills

With little discussion, Gilroy’s City Council on Monday approved
the first reading of an updated alarm ordinance that requires alarm
owners to pay a $20 annual fee and a $35 installation fee and
stiffens penalties for false alarms.
With little discussion, Gilroy’s City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an updated alarm ordinance that requires alarm owners to pay a $20 annual fee and a $35 installation fee and stiffens penalties for false alarms.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the ordinance with council members Perry Woodward and Craig Gartman dissenting. Although the council members said little about the ordinance on Monday, both Gartman and Woodward said during a May 17 study session that they saw no need to increase fees and would rather see the city enforce its current alarm policies.

No one from the audience spoke on the matter.

The new alarm policy, which would raise an expected $56,000 for the city each year through the new fees, would raise the fine for a first false alarm for someone without a permit to $195. Those who do have permits would be allowed two false alarms within a year before being charged $195 the third time.

Unless response is required by the Uniform Fire Code, the city administrator could determine that no further emergency responses be made to a home or business after seven false alarms. Police Chief Denise Turner said that the Gilroy Unified School District and City of Gilroy would continue to receive emergency response regardless of the number of false alarms, although police planned to work with them to reduce that number.

Turner said last month that 98 false alarms came from city properties and 74 came from the Gilroy Unified School District last year, representing a combined 12 percent of all false alarms. She said Monday that a business in town had an even higher number of false alarms than the city and the school district, but she did not name the business. Last month, she described 38 companies as having “chronic activation problems.” Police had to respond to one of those companies 58 times, she said.

Turner has said the new ordinance is in response to the exorbitant cost that police must spend on responding to false alarms, totaling $145,965 last year alone.

She told the council last month that police had to respond to 1,360 alarm activations in 2009, 99 percent of which were false. Officers spent 533 hours responding to those calls, while 272 hours were spent dispatching calls and 960 hours were spent on clerical work, she said.

The city has not collected fines from 52 companies, two of which have since closed, Turner said last month. In all, the city collected $6,520 in false alarm-related fines last year, she said.

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