Council may introduce new version of fire alarm ordinance

Following objections, a new fee plan and penalty system for false alarms proposed.

By: Jennifer Potash
   The hot topic of registration fees for fire alarms is back before the Princeton Borough Council tonight.
   The council will discuss a revised version of a proposed ordinance that sets some high fees for property owners who do not curb false alarms.
   The first version of the ordinance, which would have slapped hefty fees on property owners with monitored fire alarm systems that cause repetitive false alarms, was rejected by the council after the legality of some provisions was questioned and a public outcry arose over the proposed fees.
   The latest version before the council, which may introduce the ordinance tonight, has a tiered administrative fee based on the number of false alarms in a year and a lower annual fee.
   If approved by Borough Council, the alarm ordinance would require an annual $35 registration fee. For property owners with more than two but less than six false alarms in the prior year, the registration fee would increase to $135.
   If the fire alarm system has more than six but less than 10 false alarms, the annual registration would increase to $285.
   For more than 10 false alarms in a year, the registration fee would be $535, according to the proposed ordinance.
   Battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are not subject to this ordinance.
   The ordinance is intended to recoup the borough’s administrative costs and lessen the strain on the volunteer Princeton Fire Department. If adopted, the new ordinance would generate about $60,000 in revenue to the borough, officials said.
   About 185 properties, mostly businesses, have monitored fire alarm systems that are registered in the borough. These property owners pay about $275 a year to private companies that monitor the alarms and contact the borough when the alarm is activated, borough officials said. Under the proposed ordinance, a false alarm occurs when an alarm elicits a response by the borough police or fire department but the municipal fire official determines no such response was necessary.