Livingston Citizens Protest Proposed Alarm Fee at Town Council Meeting
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 • 7:07am
LIVINGSTON, NJ – On March 11 the Livingston Town Council members were greeted with over two dozen residents, most of whom came to address the evening’s hot topic of the proposed burglar/fire alarm monitoring system ordinance.
The ordinance calls for an annual $50 registration fee to be paid by all homeowners and businesses that currently have alarm systems. The fee is supposed to alleviate some of the burden that is placed on Livingston tax payers by a service that is not taken advantage of by all. In a press release written by Judith Heller, Livingston Communications Coordinator, she quotes Police Chief Craig Handschuch saying, “The fact is that all of Livingston’s taxpayers are subsidizing a service that most of them don’t receive.”
The council was met by a strong voice of opposition from residents. Resident Harriet Hirsch called the proposed $50 annual alarm registration fee “ludicrous” and resident Jason Myers called it “offensive and unnecessary.”
Residents complained that they did not see the value in the fee or understand the necessity of it. “I’m already registered and I’m totally fine with paying for false alarms. What am I getting for this fee? Why is there an upfront fee for police to do their job?” asked Myers.
Mayor Rudy Fernandez explained that there is a cost associated with the service and the fee is to offset that cost. Township Manager Michele Meade also added that the service is for less than half of the community and that there is a limited amount of tax dollars. She went on to point out that most individualized services like this one already have fees associated with them.
Residents wanted more answers and asked for monetary justification. Resident Ivan Nelson challenged the council to explain why a fee to process the registration would cost $50.
“I understand there is obviously a cost for answering a call, perhaps an administrative cost of $10 to $15 dollars,” Nelson said.
Meade told residents that alarm response fees racked up to $935,000 per year and Fernandez added that the $50 fee would only cover one fifth the total cost.
The council decided to hold the Alarm System Fees Ordinance for further consideration at the Council's next regular meeting on April 8th. Council members assured meeting participants that they have their best interest at heart and thanked everyone for voicing their concerns.
“All of you have come out and voiced your concerns," said Councilwoman Debra Shapiro. "Having received your thoughts we are going to give this consideration. This is government at its finest. This is what participatory government is all about.”
Councilman Michael Silverman added that “We love when people come out. We want to hear from our constituents. Call us, all of our numbers are on the website. And tell your neighbors and friends.”
Another issue left open was the ordinance for no parking on Mayhew Drive. Residents brought mixed concerns and proposed solutions to the parking issue including restricted hours for parking and one side only parking.
The issue arose because of the overflow of traffic and parking on the residential street due to the nearby game field. The street used to have signs limiting parking but they were taken down due to the fact that there was no official ordinance in place. After removal of the signs residents of Mayhew Drive petitioned for a solution.
Fernandez proposed to amend the ordinance to have time restrictions set in place and Shapiro recommended including the Police Chief in further discussion.
In other business, the council voted on a resolution R-13-95, "Supporting 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns' Statement of Principles." Shapiro, who opposed the resolution, stated that “this was a difficult resolution for me.” She went on to explain that she did not agree with the general principles of the organization and that the administration can oppose illegal guns on its own. “I do not consider this organization to be responsible and I vote no,” she said.
After closing remarks, resident Bob Hunter told the story of “little” Annie Moore, the first person to arrive at Ellis Island. He then sent everyone off by reading an Irish Blessing in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.