Almost half of the St. Tammany Parish Council’s meeting on Thursday was taken up discussing a single agenda item: a proposed ordinance establishing fines for repeated false fire alarms.
The ordinance was introduced at the council’s November meeting and postponed when the council met in December and January.
At the February meeting, council Chairman Michael Lorino asked Lt. Trevor Santos of the State Fire Marshal’s office to speak on the matter. Santos explained that responding to false alarms is costly to fire departments and unnecessarily ties up departmental resources.
By instituting fines for repeated false alarms, Santos said, the ordinance would serve as an inducement for the owners of both commercial and residential fire alarm systems to properly maintain them.
Santos’ remarks were endorsed by Fire Protection District 1 Chief Chris Kaufmann, who also spoke in support of the ordinance.
As initially drafted, the ordinance would institute fines when more than three false alarms were received from a system during a calendar year. A fine of $250 would be levied against the alarm system user for the fourth and fifth false alarms. The fine would rise to $500 for the sixth and subsequent false alarms.
Enforcement of the ordinance, and the collection of fines, would be the responsibility of the fire district in which the false alarms occur. Appeals of the fines could be made to a board established to hear the cases.
Despite the stiff fines, several council members emphasized that their purpose was to encourage alarm system owners to properly maintain their systems so that false alarms would be a rarity. District 12 Councilman Jerry Binder’s remarks were representative.
“This is not about the fine. We never want to get to the fine,” Binder said.
During the discussion, it became apparent that at least five amendments to the ordinance had been proposed over the preceding months, and several more amendments were proposed at the meeting. As a result, council members voted to reintroduce a revised ordinance, which will be heard at a future meeting.
In other business, the council reappointed Robert Cook, Sr. to a position on the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission, reappointed Edwin “Ed” Cantin and Mary Ann Dutton to the Permanent Nominating Committee of Hospital Service District 2, appointed Ann Boushie to the board of Recreation District 11 and appointed Eric Sonier to the board of Recreation District 6.