September 2009 - Posts

Ocean City, MD, Amends CO Ordinance

The Ocean City, MD, Town Council voted to amend its existing carbon monoxide law, removing an exemption that allowed some rooms to not have detectors.

Some rooms in structures holding fuel-burning appliances, such as water heaters, are built to be air-tight. The law had stated any rooms adjacent to such air-tight spaces could be exempt from having a carbon monoxide detector.

Ocean City Fire Marshal Sam Villani suggested to council members they remove that exemption because, over time, air-tight rooms don't stay that way -- buildings may settle, or renovations can be made, making the walls and ceilings smoke or gas permeable.

Town officials in 2007 passed the law mandating that any multifamily dwellings with fuel-burning appliances install carbon monoxide detectors. The issue rose to prominence after two resort tourists, a father and daughter, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their hotel room.

A Boardwalk condominium and a hotel were evacuated on separate occasions this summer after carbon monoxide leaks sickened several guests. Neither building had detectors and were fined for the infractions. The hotel, the Americana, was closed for inspection by fire marshals in mid-August and has not reopened.

Villani and his staffers have stepped up enforcement efforts, with plans to comb the resort's 29,000 properties to check for detector compliance.

Garden City, MI, Mulls New Alarm Ordinance

Because false alarms cause misuse of public safety response time and money, the Garden City, MI, Police Department has proposed a revision to the city's false alarm ordinance.

There were 446 alarms classified as false in 2008 and there have been 308 alarms classified as false through Aug. 31, 2009. Police Chief Kim Scott cited the “worst repeat offender” in 2009 as Kmart at 29600 Ford.

Kmart Manager Pat Spruille said Friday that the store hasn't had a false alarm “for a while.”

“We haven't had one for quite some time,” she said. “They call us at home.”

The weather and the store's motion detectors can set off an alarm, she said, adding that she didn't know the proposed false alarm amendment was on the Sept. 21 council agenda.

“Many cities already charge a fine,” Spruille said.

Scott said that the “worst repeat offender” in 2008 was Imperial Hobbies at 30990 Ford Road. The police department didn't provide exact numbers of false alarms for these two businesses, and a call to Imperial Hobbies indicated that the telephone was disconnected.

The proposal that Garden City Council expects to approve is to begin charging $85 per false alarm for four or more false alarms in a calendar year. A public hearing is scheduled at 6:58 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at Garden City Hall.

In an Aug. 17 memo to City Manager David Harvey, Scott said that the idea is to promote “responsible use of security alarm systems. The idea is to reduce the problem, and businesses would get a grace period of up to three false alarms.”

“Fines should discourage error, but not be cost-prohibitive,” Scott said.

Acts of God, including violent natural conditions like storms and high winds and utility company failures, are not considered false alarms, she said.

The program would be administered on a calendar year basis rather than a rolling 12-month cycle.

In January, the alarm user's record would be reset to zero.

Scott added that the program takes into account reduced staffing. It will be “cooperatively managed” between the Police Department and the City Clerk's office, she said.

Scott, PA, Considers Increase for Alarm Fees

A proposed change to he Scott, PA, fee schedule for security alarms already has set off some residents and officials.

The ordinance would require those with alarm systems to pay an annual $35 fee, as well as provide yearly updated contact information. Currently, security system owners pay a fee only when their alarms are activated.

Teddi Xidas of Robinwood Drive told Scott officials Tuesday that it wouldn't be prudent to charge an annual fee, too.

"The whole purpose of a security alarm system is to deter robbers," she said, adding that such mechanisms aid police in crime-fighting efforts.

Commissioner David Jason replied that the proposal also would require alarm system owners to update their information when they paid their annual fees, but Ms. Xidas indicated it wasn't worth it.

When he then suggested that the proposed legislation could be written so that residents who don't renew their information yearly could be charged a fee, she still wasn't impressed.

"It's a hidden tax," she said, noting that her security system, which cost $1,000, requires a $40 monthly payment to be functional. She went on to say that an additional $35 a year expense could be tough on retirees and those on fixed incomes.

Commissioner Jean O'Toole quickly agreed.

"That's nickel-and-diming the residents," she declared, stating she would not support anything more than a one-time fee.

Commissioner Dave Calabria, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting, sent in a letter saying that he, too, does not favor an annual charge.

Police Chief Jim Secreet pointed out that, while security systems can be helpful in deterring crime, they sometimes result in extra police work when they are triggered falsely.