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story.lead_photo.caption The city of Fayetteville logo is seen at City Hall on Feb. 14.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city's false alarm reduction ordinance is unconstitutional, vague and places undue responsibility on business owners and residents, according to a lawsuit.

The city filed a response Thursday to a class action suit filed in November by Chris Corbitt and Kevin Lemley, lawyers in Little Rock. Companion cases have been brought against Little Rock and Hot Springs over similar ordinances.

False alarm ordinance

The ordinance, enacted in 2009, imposes service fees based on annual number of false alarms. Businesses and residences get one free false alarm per year and can appeal the fees. The fee structure is:

• 1: $0

• 2: $75

• 3: $100

• 4: $150

• 5: $200

• 6 or more: $250

Source: Staff Report

The Fayetteville complaint, filed in Washington County Circuit Court on behalf of ABC Equipment Inc., seeks a refund of all fines, fees, late fees and any other money paid under the city's false alarm reduction ordinance for the past three years, along with compensatory damages and legal fees. It also asks the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and invalid and seeks a jury trial.

The ordinance, enacted in 2009, imposes service fees based on the number of false alarms incurred at a business or residence on an annual basis.

Police were wasting significant time and resources responding to thousands of false alarms, tying up officers in case of emergency, City Attorney Kit Williams said.

The ordinance resulted in the number of false alarm calls dropping by about half, Williams said. The city's website says there were more than 17,000 false alarm calls from 2003-2007.

"It's worked and we're not going to change it," Williams said.

The lawsuit claims 94 percent of all alarm signals are false and problems with alarm reliability have existed for decades. An alarm service is a three-tiered system, consisting of the customer who bought the alarm, the installation company and the monitoring company receiving signals from the alarm to send to dispatch.

Any of those entities, as well as acts of God, can cause a false alarm, the suit alleges.

The city has a contract with Public Safety Corporation to enforce the ordinance. That company, along with Police Chief Greg Tabor, Fire Chief David Dayringer and the city all are listed as defendants.

Lemley characterized the suit as pro-business. The ordinance has constitutional problems, he said.

"One of the cruxes of the lawsuit is that there are more effective measures other than imposing a fine just on the end user," Lemley said. "We'll expect those to come out later on in the case."

NW News on 01/20/2018

Print Headline: City sued over false alarm ordinance

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