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Council delays decision on alarm fees

Plans to change fees for home and business fire and security alarms have been tabled for about three weeks.

That move by the Wichita City Council came Tuesday after questions about how the fees would work in some scenarios and whether the ordinance's language is clear about how alarm installation would be regulated.

Here's some background:

In 2008, Wichita police and fire squads responded to about 25,000 calls generated by security systems and other alarms. Of those, 98 percent were false alarms, according to the city.

The cost to respond to 25,000 alarm calls is $3.5 million to $4 million.

Last year, the city proposed an alarm registration fee of $3 a month for residences and $9 a month for businesses, for a projected $1.75 million boost to the city's cash-strapped coffers. Council members then lowered the fee proposal to $1 and $3.

After hearing from alarm companies who didn't like the plan, the city changed the proposal to a $25 annual registration fee.

The city is also proposing a matrix for police and fire false alarms that aims to reduce unnecessary calls.

Alarm system customers will still get one false call per year for free. But the cost climbs from there.

For security false alarms, the second call would cost $40 and the fee would climb to $350 by the 10th call.

For fire false alarms, the second call would cost $100 and the fee would climb to $750 by the 10th call.

The fees are expected to generate $500,000 a year.

The new fee would be effective July 1. It's unclear whether that date would change because of the council's deferral Tuesday.

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