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updated: 4/25/2012 11:46 PM

Elgin council still wants details on fire alarm monitoring

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While Councilman John Prigge tried to put Elgin's fire alarm monitoring discussion to rest, the city council as a whole reaffirmed its desire for more information on the topic during a special committee meeting Wednesday.

The possibility of creating a city-owned monitoring network for fire alarms was first discussed more than a year ago but has yet to be brought forward as a recommendation by staff members for formal council consideration. The abstract proposal -- which included the possibility of requiring businesses to purchase services from the city -- drew heated opposition by fire alarm monitoring companies late in 2011 with local business owners adding their disapproval at the Jan. 11 council meeting.

Prigge said Wednesday it wasn't fair to leave the possibility hanging over the heads of business owners and alarm monitoring companies.

"Unless there's something significant that I'm missing or if somebody has something today, I think we should just bury it," Prigge said.

City Manager Sean Stegall worried that would halt a process that has barely begun. The next steps include hiring a consultant to research the city's options in creating its own network, which would eliminate alarm monitoring companies as a middle entity between fire alarms in businesses and Elgin's dispatch center.

Stegall said a major goal in creating the network would be to reduce false alarms. According to Fire Chief John Fahy, false alarms account for 40 percent of the volume of fire calls.

Council members discussed fining businesses after a certain number of false alarms in a given year, hoping to encourage system upgrades for greater accuracy.

No one advocated creating a system that would require businesses to contract with the city -- a scenario in place in several surrounding municipalities and the major source of contention in the business community.

Overall, Mayor David Kaptain and council members Richard Dunne, John Steffan and Anna Moeller asked for more information, keeping the issue exactly where it has been for months.

"Without the information it's very hard for me to make the decision on which is the appropriate way to go," Dunne said.

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