Photo by John F. Russell
Taylor Baker, an alarm technician with Western Security, checks out a smoke alarm Monday in the workout room at the Lake House at Catamount Ranch & Club. Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night will consider revising the current false alarm ordinance that fines building owners who violate it more than once.
- Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 5 p.m.
- Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs A city ordinance intended to reduce the number of false fire and burglary alarms officers and firefighters respond to has had unintended consequences and could be revamped as a result.
The Steamboat Springs City Council will consider revisions Tuesday night to the ordinance it first adopted in 2010. If approved by the council, the new ordinance would do away with the escalating fine structure that currently charges building owners $100 for a second false alarm violation and $100 more for every subsequent violation. The proposed revisions include not levying fines until the false alarm ordinance has been violated more than six times in a year. That fine — $500 — could then be levied on the seventh and all subsequent violations.
“The bite is still there, and I think something will still be in place to remedy the serious violations,” Public Safety Director Joel Rae said Monday. “The whole goal of this ordinance is to get people to repair their alarm problem before they get to a violation and ultimately reduce false alarms and not waste the time of police and firefighters who are responding to them.”
According to records compiled by Rae’s department, police saw a 25 percent drop in false alarm calls during the ordinance’s first year, and the fire department saw a 6 percent drop in calls.
Rae told the council last month that although the ordinance has helped reduce the number of false alarms, enforcing the new rules has become a difficult and time-consuming task.
He said Monday that drafting citation letters, tracking the number violations and collecting the fines — which in some instances have totaled more than $2,000 per building owner — also has been a challenge.
“The response (to the citations) has been all across the board,” Rae said. “Some people get a warning letter and immediately they are calling me or writing a letter to resolve the issue. Some people pay the full amount of their fine while others don’t pay anything and just ignore it.”
According to Rae, as of Feb. 1, police have handed out $24,600 in fines for false alarms since the ordinance was enacted. But the department has collected only $6,250 of those fines. At the same time, the fire department has assessed $9,100 in fines but collected just $3,250.
Rae said there is no immediate plan to recoup the unpaid fines other than to move forward with revising the ordinance.
He said the version he will present to council Tuesday night gives him and Fire Chief Mel Stewart more flexibility to assess fines. He said officers would be able to leave pre-written warning notices on properties, and business owners who are eventually fined could have their fines waived or reduced if they prove they have fixed their alarms.
Also Tuesday, the council will:
• Review the applications for the city’s Accommodations Tax Committee. According to the agenda, three Steamboat residents have applied to be on the five-member committee that will help decide how the city should use future funds from its 1 percent lodging tax. The tax revenues currently go toward Haymaker Golf Course debt payments. The committee will include three members of the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association, City Council member Cari Hermacinski and a council-appointed public volunteer.
• Consider adopting the Howelsen Hill Rodeo Facility Schematic Design Plan as presented by the city’s Planning Commission.