New Milford Town Council approves new fines for false alarms and inspections
NEW MILFORD — The Town Council on Monday approved fines for residents who have repeated false alarms and for those who refuse or ignore the town notices to allow officials to inspect their properties.
The fines would take effect in about a month.
Councilwoman Katy Francis originally opposed the alarm ordinance based on comments from Monday’s public hearing, where Jim Corbett, who works at an alarm company and sits on the fire alarm appeals board, made a few suggestions. She then changed to a yes vote because the ordinance can be amended to include some of Corbett’s ideas.
Among those suggestions, he said the time an alarm could sound should be 15 minutes, not 30, which is too long and would annoy neighbors.
He also said the registration should be voluntary and the list shouldn’t be maintained by the town because changes would be too hard to keep up with.
“It’s going to be a burden,” he said.
He also suggested having two free false alarms and then keeping the suggested fee structure.
The adopted fine schedule has a $50 penalty for two false alarms, $100 for three and $150 for four or more. The alarm tally applies for a 12-month period and the fire and police alarms are counted separately.
The biggest change made in the process was removing the proposed “suspension-of-response” penalty if a fine isn’t paid in 30 days. First responders and council members were worried this would be dangerous in the event of an actual emergency.
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New Milford established a burglar alarm ordinance in July 1981, but repealed it a few months later.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.
Corbett said that he’s served on the fire alarm appeals board for years, but it hasn’t met because people don’t appeal the false alarms. He said a false alarm often happens because the system isn’t maintained, so the fine structure should lead to better care.
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 about 780 burglary alarms by the first presentation in fall 2018, of which two were actual burglaries, Town Attorney Matt Grimes has said.
Under the approved 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 officials on the scene and have discretion on issuing a fines.
The inspection ordinance now adds a $200 fine and associated costs for employees if any property forces the town to go to Superior Court to obtain a search warrant so the fire marshal can inspect it.
The fire marshal inspects properties in town for numerous reasons, including new construction or a routine inspection of other buildings, such as businesses and hospitals. 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.