The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office could have fewer alarms to respond to, depending on how towns respond to proposed rules that include fines. The ordinance gets its first test in Alna March 23, when voters take it up at their annual town meeting set for 10 a.m. at the fire station. Town and county officials are optimistic the rules would help.
Sheriff Todd Brackett said at a public hearing Tuesday night, the department plans to offer the rules to other towns to consider even if Alna rejects the proposal. Chief Deputy Rand Maker added, Alna would be a good place to start the ordinance, due to the town's low volume of alarms – 16 last year, according to a handout from the department; last year saw 683 countywide.
The proposal stems from Third Selectman Doug Baston’s collaboration with the department after he learned at a county budget committee meeting, false alarms are a problem.
In the hearing at the fire station, Brackett and Maker praised Baston’s efforts. “Thank you for being a pioneer for us. We appreciate it,” Brackett said.
In a recent email response to questions, Maker said about five percent of the department’s calls for service are false alarms. “We are anticipating that some type of ordinance along with some education for the alarm user could reduce these calls by half.”
Second Selectman Ed Pentaleri told attendees Tuesday, he expects the risk of fines to make a “quantum leap” in cutting false alarms. The draft calls for a $100 fine for third, fourth and fifth incidents, $250 for the sixth through ninth ones and $500 for a tenth or higher one. He recommending dropping a part that states if the fines go unpaid or duties go unfulfilled, “law enforcement or fire services may decline to respond to alarm signals … at the premises until payment and/or compliance is achieved, or the matter is otherwise resolved.”
Pentalari said that could, in theory, pose a liability issue. “Just because someone gets a lot of false alarms, doesn’t mean they can’t have a genuine one.”
That portion is not a deal-breaker, Maker responded. Selectmen expect to consider it when reviewing the town meeting warrant tonight, Wednesday, March 13. The board meets at 6 p.m. at the fire station. Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12 Superintendent of Schools Howie Tuttle will speak on the district's next budget.
At Baston's request, Brackett said he would come to town meeting. If the ordinance passes, the board will make a memo or contract with the sheriff's office, Baston said.
Voters will also consider an ordinance to exempt Alna's food producers from state licensing and inspection, if consumers get the food straight from them. According to a draft, the exemption would not apply to meat and poultry subject to federal laws.
The proposed municipal budget is close to flat with last year's, selectmen said. A draft version of the warrant has the board recommending $20,000 to house the town's archives at the new town office. The vault was built in the basement as the building awaited electricity, Baston said.