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Proposal supported by Willmar, Minn., City Council committee would reinstate fees for repeat false fire alarms

WILLMAR -- A proposal supported by the Willmar City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee would reinstate payment of fees for repeat false fire alarm offenders. The proposal will be considered by the council Monday.

Fire Chief Marv Calvin requested reinstatement of the fee policy, which would be aimed mainly at a few businesses that have alarm systems which are monitored by outside alarm companies. Calvin said the false alarms are due to either lack of maintenance or employee error.

The Fire Department had been charging a fee of $250 after the fifth false alarm to the same location during a 12-month period. The policy had brought in upwards of $3,000 in revenue in past years, Calvin said.

The fee was dropped, however, after the council in February repealed an ordinance that had governed a permit process for a technologically outdated alarm panel at the former downtown law enforcement center. Use of the panel ended when the law enforcement center was moved out of downtown more than 10 years ago.

Calvin proposed reinstating the fee at $250 effective Jan. 1, 2013, but proposed reducing the number of allowable false alarms from five to three before the fee takes effect.

Calvin said the cost of a fire call to taxpayers is more than $2,000. Calvin said the city's cost does not include the cost to employers when firefighters must leave their jobs to respond to fire alarms.

Calvin estimated the city would receive more than $6,000 in revenue if the fee were reinstated.

During discussion, the committee agreed to a motion by Rick Fagerlie to increase the fee to $500. He said responding to false alarms is a problem and he said people should maintain their systems so that the Fire Department would not have to respond to false alarms.

The committee directed staff to draft an ordinance that would allow the Fire Department to charge the fee.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150