300 false alarms so far this year
by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen proposed the city council change to false house alarm ordinances.
The Council also discussed the potential impact of charging tent fees, and discussed funding for a proposed new public safety building.
The Rogers Police Department has already responded to nearly 300 calls for false alarms this year.
“That takes cops out of neighborhoods at night, out of traffic areas where you see accidents, and it takes them to businesses for no good reason that could be nearly 100% avoided,” said Mayor Jay Bunting.
Beahen believes that changing the way businesses and alarm companies handle false alarms could dramatically reduce the amount of time Rogers police officers spend responding to them.
He proposed amending the city’s ordinance to require businesses and alarm companies to, among other things, utilize a two-call system. First, a call must be made to the premises where the alarm is located to determine the cause. If there is no answer, a second call should be placed to a key holder to inquire about the alarm. If neither of these calls clears up the cause of the alarm, then 911 would be contacted.
Another part of the proposed changes would involve fines for false alarms. The first three in a year would be free but subsequent false alarm responses would result in a fee of $50 and up.
Beahen informed the Council that in Elk River, where he was previously the Chief of Police, a similar ordinance change resulted in a 43% reduction in police calls for false alarms.
Council member Darren Jakel expressed concern for putting a hardship on area businesses.
City Administrator Steve Stahmer told him, “The goal is to never actually collect the money from the fees. The goal is to get compliance.”
After discussing the matter, the Council seemed in favor of most of the changes. It tabled the issue but is expected to make a decision on a revised version at its next meeting.
Jakel was concerned about a proposed $75 fee for temporary tents because of its potential impact on residents.
Fire Chief Brad Feist told the Council, “I don’t think in all of our discussions we were wanting to target residential properties. We were more doing it as a part of the special event permit.”
The proposed tent fee would only apply to tents over 200 square feet, much larger, according to Feist, than a tent that a resident would typically erect for a graduation or other gathering.
But Jakel countered that he had put up a 600-square-foot tent just a few weeks prior for his child’s graduation party.
The Council tabled the matter so that the language could be amended to exempt residents in most cases.
In other matters, the council:
DIRECTED staff to look into potential funding sources for a proposed new Public Safety Building that would house both the Rogers Police Department and Fire Department. The total cost of the renovations and additions to the current Fire Station to create the new facility is $5.136 million. City staff has already applied to the State of Minnesota to fund half of the cost of the project. Planning for the project is still preliminary. The council has yet to approve it. It did, however, indicate a desire for detailed funding options in order to assist in the decision making process.