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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Ford County Commission to crack down on false alarms



  •     Local authorities have responded to 1,284 emergency calls so far this year, but 98 percent of those turned out to be false.


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  •     Local authorities have responded to 1,284 emergency calls so far this year, but 98 percent of those turned out to be false.
        The Ford County Commission voted Monday to crack down on false alarms by charging repeat offenders a $25 fee for each alarm, with an exception for weather-related alarms. The first false alarm each month would be free, but the user would pay the fee for each one after that.
        “That makes the people who own alarms a little bit more responsible,” said Ford County Communications director Linda Smith. “And also, if they do have a malfunctioning alarm, it makes the alarm company more responsible to fix that for them.”
        The fee is not new, but the provision allowing the county to bill alarm users after the second false alarm each month is. In the past, the county would not charge the fee until the fifth false alarm.
        Alarm users who have to pay the fee will get a month have to settle their bill with the Ford County Communications Center. If they don’t pay within 30 days, the county will begin charging interest at the rate of 1.5 percent per month.
        Any unpaid fees would be referred to a collection agency after 90 days.
        Smith said the county will still respond to alarms, even if the user does not pay the fee.
        “In the original ordinance, I believe it did state that we would not respond if they were not up to date,” she said. “That’s another thing that we wanted to address. Just take that out.”
        County Administrator Ed Elam said false alarms take emergency workers away from other tasks and increase the danger that they will be hurt in an accident.
        “We’ve got to make these people (alarm users) that have these continuation problems be more responsible and take some responsibility on their own,” he said.
        The ordinance also requires alarm users to obtain a permit before installing or operating an alarm system. The permit costs $10 and is good for two years.
        Customers who have multiple alarm systems must obtain a separate permit for each system.
        The commission also rescinded a 1993 resolution that covered the same ground but said the county would not respond to a false alarm if the caller had any unpaid fees.
        In other business, interim fire/EMS Chief Jay Taylor and interim Dodge City Fire Chief Kevin Norton said their departments are focusing on joint training opportunities, improving response times and updating the mutual aid agreement.
        The agreement spells out each department’s responsibility to help the other.
        “There’s been some other training issues that we’ve dealt with, and the guys are real eager to do so,” Taylor said.
    Page 2 of 2 -     The emphasis on training together and addressing response times comes in the wake of a study recommending  improvements in those areas. The McGrath Consulting Group, which conducted the study, said the two departments should seek out joint training opportunities and look for other ways to improve efficiency.
        The consultants also recommended moving toward partial consolidation by hiring a joint fire chief to oversee daily operations. The two interim chiefs would become deputies, reporting to the joint chief.
        Commission Chairman Kim Goodnight wondered whether Taylor and Norton thought the departments needed a single chief.
        “What that report said was that there wasn’t cooperation, obviously, so there needed to be one person in charge that would make sure that this cooperation took place,” he said. “If you’re saying that cooperation will continue under your guidance and Jay’s guidance ...”
        Norton said he and Taylor have a good working relationship, and their men are looking forward to working together.
        “We’ve embarked on that exploration, and I’m exciting to see where it’s going,” he said.
     
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