FLOWERY BRANCH — Hoping to curb the number of false alarms in the city, the Flowery Branch City Council gave its first approval Wednesday to a new law that would set fines for repeat offenders.
The council decided, however, not to require residents to obtain a permit for an alarm system, following a discussion addressing privacy and administrative concerns.
“If this whole (issue) is teeter-tottering on a permit, then (know that) the police department will have to maintain that documentation, so we would know whether we’ve made only one call this year or 12 calls,” Chief Gerald Lanich told the council.
The ordinance allows two warnings for people responsible for a false alarm, which the law defines as “the activation of an alarm system through mechanical or electronic failure,” malfunction, improper installation or negligence.
After the second warning, fines start at $50 and escalate to $500 based on the number of false alarms during a 12-month period.
The ordinance also allows the city to create a free “alarm user awareness class” and give offenders the option of taking it in lieu of paying a fine.
Prompting the new law was city officials noticing a steady increase in false alarm calls.
City Manager Bill Andrew has said the number has risen from 425 in 2006 to 642 in 2008 and that, this year, “we are on track to mimic the numbers from 2008.”
“We also looked at about a half-hour per call,” Andrew said Wednesday. “That’s probably a little low. But there’s generally about two officers involved in each call, so that bumps up the (response time) to about an hour, which again is probably a conservative figure.”
Responding to false alarm calls is costing the city thousands of dollars in personnel time, he said.
“But it is also a cost in that those officers aren’t perhaps answering legitimate calls,” Andrew said.
Councilmen Craig Lutz and Chris Fetterman particularly voiced concerns about permitting. But fellow residents of Sterling on the Lake subdivision, Jim Mathis and Ed Asbridge, also spoke out.
“First of all … (officers) are still going to be spending quite a bit of time on (false alarms) and then you’ve got somebody else who’s going to have to administer all these permits,” Asbridge said. “It will be a nightmare, I assure you.”
Many false alarm calls are stemming from Sterling on the Lake, one of the city’s newest and largest neighborhoods, where residents are setting up alarm systems.
After the vote, Mathis said he was pleased with the decision.
“It’s appropriate to do what they’re doing. It’s needed,” he said. “I also compliment them on listening to the concerns of the community. They very well understood that the permit process might be a challenge.”
Final approval of the law is set for June 17.