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updated: 1/26/2012 3:30 PM

Alarm network still a possibility in Elgin

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The possibility of creating a city-owned monitoring network for fire alarms in Elgin is still on the table.

City staff members first started researching the potential business venture last year with council members sitting in on early briefings over the summer. The proposal got more public attention late in 2011 as alarm monitoring companies and concerned businesses took an early stand against it.

Besides passing references during the budget discussions, the council had not officially taken up the proposal before Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting. But several people spoke at the Jan. 11 meeting in opposition of creating such a network.

Councilman John Prigge pushed a public discussion Wednesday in getting the item on the council's agenda.

"I've asked to have this put on here for discussion purposes," Prigge said, adding he did not see support for the network from his conversations with business owners.

"If they're happy with response times and the service they get, I think they should not be forced by local government to change."

Proponents of the city network say response times are faster if a private company does not serve as middleman between a fire alarm at a business and the dispatch center. This potential delay was disputed by alarm company representatives speaking during public comment earlier in January.

Though Prigge was prepared to vote against the network, Councilwoman Anna Moeller said the council was not prepared to make a decision either way without a more substantive discussion.

"Before we are able to vote on this matter, we need to have more information provided to the council and to the community by staff," Moeller said.

Councilwoman Tish Powell voted to table the item, a move which was unanimously supported by the rest of the council.

An early concern of businesses and alarm companies was that the city would create its own alarm monitoring network and require businesses to purchase services from it.

David Ziegler, owner of several Ace Hardware stores in the Fox Valley, said his family has been a satisfied customer of an alarm monitoring company for more than 40 years and hopes to continue with it. He said costs are higher for the stores in communities where alarm monitoring is required.

"With the small business situation in America and this area, any additional fee or tax from a governmental body is really just another nail in the coffin," Ziegler said.

While several council members have indicated they would not support mandatory participation by businesses, Prigge pointed out Wednesday if businesses are allowed to opt in it would take the city even longer to recoup the startup costs he said were already prohibitive.

A timeline for bringing the issue before the council with more detail from staff members was not discussed Wednesday.

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