By SHERIDAN CYR
A public hearing was held at the Sept. 10 Town Council meeting on an ordinance draft for excessive emergency service responses. The council closed the public hearing that night and will vote on the ordinance at an upcoming meeting.
The purpose of the ordinance will be to create the ability to track and identify nuisance properties which experience verified excessive responses to a specific location. According to the draft, the ordinance would provide “motivation for the property owners to actively participate in solving problems on their property.”
The proposed ordinance will follow the fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). Town Attorney Carolyn Futtner explained that once a property owner reaches 20 calls in a fiscal year, Southington police will review the situation and try to speak with the property owner “to try to address concerns and prevent anything from getting worse.”
Once the property reaches 25 calls, a $250 fine—the maximum penalty under Connecticut general statute—will be issued through the administrative services section of the Southington Police Department. A written notification will be given to the property owner. A meeting will be set up within one week of the notification to allow for the property owner and/or responsible person to present any information or evidence to mitigate their violation.
Before the vote, SPD will submit a report to the Town Manager within 30 days, and the Town Manager will then forward the report to the to the Town Council within three days for final review.
“Excessive responses are a drain on personnel and resources often leaving other areas of the town without adequate levels of protection and service,” states the proposed ordinance, “which creates a hazard to the public, requires resources over and above the level of services normally provided and constitutes a public nuisance, the costs for which should be paid by the responsible person and/or property owner.”
Resident Roseanne Conti shared concern that the $250 fine would be a drop in the bucket for business owners who are making money serving customers. She also felt the ordinance would deter property owners from calling the police in order to prevent a fine.
“If there’s a disturbance or something’s going on, they’re not going to call the police, because they don’t want the fine,” said Conti. “So it’ll bring the altercation out into the street or into the public.”
SPD deputy chief William Palmieri pointed out only situations that SPD feels can be controlled by the property owner will count toward this ordinance.
“It focuses on a very finite type of call, so your traffic accidents, domestic abuse calls, family disputes, mental health related calls—those are all exempt,” said the deputy chief. “I wanted to speak on this, because it’s not that you can’t call the police anymore. That’s the farthest from the truth.”
Southington resident Bob Sargent said the ordinance is “a good start.”
“At a business near me, the average police call gets three responding officers and three cars. That’s $828 on one call,” said Sargent. “We can’t turn a blind eye to some of the costs of these things. This is getting outrageous.”
A nearby neighbor of Sargent, Melissa Halgren, supported the ordinance.
“It’s a small town, and we’re used to SPD response being really quick, but if it’s a Saturday night, and you’ve got three officers at the top offender and two at the second and the third, [SPD]can’t just produce staff as needed,” said Halgren. “They do a great job, but a lot of times, they get calls from opposite sides of town. When response times go down, that can open up to a legal issue, as well.”
For a copy of the proposed ordinance, click here: Proposed Excessive Calls ordinance