Unanimously Voted to Refer the Concept of Street Maintenance Bond Funding to the Finance Committee
"By DANI ANGUIANO | firstname.lastname@example.org | Chico Enterprise-Record
PUBLISHED: June 19, 2018 at 11:19 pm | UPDATED: June 19, 2018 at 11:21 pm
CHICO — The Chico Fire Department will soon begin charging for repeated false fire alarms after the City Council voted in favor of amending city code to address the issue Tuesday.
The department has received more than 1,400 calls in two years that turned out to be false fire alarms, accounting for more than 5 percent of total calls received in 2016 and 2017. Some of those calls come from repeat offenders, including Chico State University, with the department responding to as many as 50 false alarms at one property.
Fire Chief Steve Standridge asked Tuesday that the council consider amending city code to reduce the wasted expenses, time and resources associated with such calls, and adopt a policy that allows the city to collect fees of $100-$200 for repeated false fire alarms the same way it does for false security alarms.
Existing city code regulates security alarm monitoring companies and users, but no such regulation exists for fire alarms. The effort to establish such a regulation is not driven by a desire to generate revenue, Standridge said, but rather to reduce the occurrences of false fire alarms and frequency of responses from the department.
The proposal will allow the department to charge $100 for the second response to a false alarm and $200 for each additional response. The fees are for false alarms from monitored systems, in which the Fire Department is contacted, and include alarms caused by malfunction or neglect, but not those caused by earthquakes or other circumstances a user cannot reasonably control, Standridge said.
“What we’re really looking for are instances where the actual system itself is not being maintained by the property owner,” Standridge said.
Chico State’s director of environmental health and safety, Marvin Pratt, who spoke on the issue briefly during public comment, said he understands the need for such a fee, but is concerned about how it would impact the campus, particularly University Village, a housing complex that regularly has false fire alarms caused by students cooking in small kitchens.
The university has tried to change its system to reduce those calls, but its proposal was denied by the State Fire Marshal. He added he is worried about the unintended consequence of such a fee and how it could impact safety.
“I don’t want an engine running down the road for something that’s not an emergency. The trouble is we don’t know what’s an emergency. If we wait, it may be too late,” Pratt said.
The council approved the proposal unanimously, while at the same time recommending that the city work with the university on the issue moving forward.
The council also took a new step toward addressing its growing pension deficit by establishing a pension stabilization trust. The city will this year put money in an irrevocable trust that can only be used for pension related expenses, and those funds will be invested in such a way to yield greater returns.
“We can’t use the (funds) for operations. There’s value there. If we had dollars available there’s a temptation to use it for needed things,” City Finance Director Scott Dowell said.
The fund is the last tool the city has to address the growing pension crisis, as appeals to CalPERS haven’t worked, Dowell said. The city plans to put $1 million in the trust this year.
The council voted unanimously in favor of establishing the trust, and later voted to have city staff return with a proposed policy on how changes to the trust will be made.
The council also:
- Upheld an appeal from residents of a Chico neighborhood to overrule a Planning Commission decision to offer to dedicate a street connection from the Marigold Heights subdivision to Rusty Lane. The proposed connection would have created a street on privately owned property and residents expressed concern about the safety of such a thoroughfare and the impact it would have on the neighborhood. The council voted 6-1 to uphold the appeal with Mayor Sean Morgan, Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer and councilors Ann Schwab, Karl Ory, Randall Stone and Andrew Coolidge in favor and Councilor Mark Sorensen opposed.
- Unanimously voted in favor of requests from Stone to discuss Humboldt Avenue safety issues and campaign finance regulations at a future meeting.
- Unanimously voted to refer the concept of street maintenance bond funding to the finance committee. That request from Sorensen came after a request from Councilor Karl Ory to look at the Chamber of Commerce recommendation for a tax increase to aid police staffing and improve roads at a future meeting failed in a 4-3 vote with Morgan, Fillmer, Sorensen and Coolidge opposted and Ory, Schwab and Stone in favor.
- Heard from several members of the Justice for Desmond Phillips group who expressed concern about the adequacy of training that Chico police officers receive and how the department handled the incident that led to Phillips’ death in 2017."