Town may start charging for three-peat false alarms

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NEWRY — Three straight false alarms in Newry that generate a fire department response could net a company, home or business a fine and police summons if special town meeting voters approve a new ordinance currently being drafted.

That’s what selectmen learned at Monday afternoon’s meeting, Administrator Loretta Powers said Tuesday morning.

The Alarm Ordinance establishes guidelines for response to alarms by the Fire Department.

Though aimed mainly at alarm system companies that fail to notify the Oxford County Regional Communications Center before working on someone’s system and accidentally triggering an emergency response, the ordinance and assessed fines also target people who make nonemergency 911 calls.

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“It’s just one of those things where you get three strikes and you’re out, and then you get charged or billed,” new fire Chief Bruce Pierce said Tuesday afternoon.

“For me, it’s more of an awareness thing and not something that’s being done to hit people in their pocketbooks.”

Bethel and Woodstock already have such false alarm ordinances in place, Powers said, but Newry doesn’t.

Pierce said the department responded to 27 false alarms last year.

The proposed ordinance, which is still in the early draft stage, states that anyone found violating the ordinance will be sent a copy of the document and a letter after the first false alarm. The second such alarm nets the same thing, but would be sent via certified mail to the owner, whereas the third violation incurs a $300 fine for that instance and each additional nonemergency call thereafter for a year.

In other business, Powers said that out of 3,500-plus tax bills for 2009, there are only 93 that have yet to be sent in, totaling $113,000.

“That’s not too bad, out of more than 3,000,” she said. “It’s a few more than normal.”

After sending out 30-day notices for liens on the properties, Powers said several people have called saying they’d be in to pay their tax bill.

“But a lot of them just wait until the end” of the 30 days, she said. “They want their money in their pockets a little longer, and I don’t blame them.”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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