Spring Lake Park changes how it handles false alarms

As a means to save the city money, the city of Spring Lake Park has change its ordinance covering false fire alarms and police calls.

The Spring Lake Park City Council voted unanimously April 15 to decrease the number of allowed police calls and increase the allowed fire calls before administrative user fees kick in.

Businesses, commercial properties and rental properties will now be allowed two false fire alarms before the administrative fees are assessed under the amended ordinance.

Prior to the change, only one false fire alarm was allowed.

But more than three false police calls will lead to a fee following Monday’s council decision.

The previous ordinance allowed four calls before fines were charged, according to Assistant City Administrator Dan Buchholtz.

And it also required anyone with more than the allowed false alarms to purchase an alarm system permit, but there was no physical permit, he said.

The user would receive a letter and be required to pay a user fee or the city would not respond to the calls, Buchholtz said.

The problem was the police and fire departments would not know if the alarm was false until they arrived at the property, he said.

While some users would pay the fee, others would not because they did not agree with the number of false calls or simply refuse to pay the fee, Buchholtz said.

Given the user fees were between $35 and $100, it would cost much more to have Anoka or Ramsey counties prosecute the cases, Buchholtz said.

The new ordinance now puts in writing what the actual practices have been and allows the city to assess the property for any unpaid alarm fees, Buchholtz said.

It also creates “an appeals process for alarm users who are required to pay a user fee,” he said.

Although changing the false alarms limit from four for the police calls and one for the fire department was not part of Buchholtz’s recommendation, Councilmember Bill Nash said he wanted it the same as Blaine and Mounds View, who are part of the city’s district.

Blaine allows three false fire alarms and Mounds View allows two, he said.

“The city is more strict on the false fire alarms because they are more costly,” Buchholtz said.

The fire department receives about 60 false alarms a year, said Barry Brainard, building official/fire marshal.

The idea behind the restrictions is to save the city money and get people with malfunctioning alarm systems to replace them, said City Administrator Barb Nelson.

When the Northtown Apartments false alarm fees continued to grew, the company finally decided to replace the system because it would be cheaper, Brainard said.

Many of the false alarms are generated by commercial businesses, not private homes, Buchholtz said

In the past there were also a lot of calls from the high school when employees would not put in the door codes, Barb Nelson said.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com

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