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County OKs alarm ordinance

February 03, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance that would impose fines for repeated false alarms from security systems.

The version of the ordinance approved Tuesday was scaled back from the Washington County Sheriff's Department's original request, taking out the proposed permit fees for alarm system users and the creation of an alarm administrator position.

The commissioners also decided to cap the fine amounts at $100 for residential users and $250 for nonresidential users. The fines would start with the third false alarm of the year at $30 for residential users and $60 for nonresidential users, then increase with each false alarm that year by $20 or $25, respectively, until they reached the cap amounts, then remain at those amounts for each subsequent offense.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the revised ordinance, with Commissioner Kristin Aleshire absent.

Commissioners said the changes addressed most of the complaints they heard about the ordinance. Most opponents objected to the permit fee for alarm system users, which the sheriff's department originally proposed to help fund the creation of an alarm administrator position.

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Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said he listened to those concerns and decided not to request the permit fees in recognition of the fact that most false alarms come from a relatively small number of users, most of them businesses.

"I certainly do not want to penalize our good citizens who have burglar alarm systems and are good stewards of those alarms," Mullendore said. "However, I do believe it is high time that we penalize those alarm users that do not use their alarm system properly and cause all the taxpayers to suffer consequences of using our law enforcement resources on a constant basis."

Instead of creating a new position to administer the fines, the department will assign those responsibilities to its information technology administrator, who will run software to generate letters automatically, Mullendore said.

The department will pay a one-time cost of $40,000 for that software, he said.

The ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

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