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Suffolk County Town Ready To Hit Residents With Huge Fees For Repeated False Alarms

NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Get ready to fork over big time fees in one Long Island village.

Officials are fed up with faulty alarm systems in homes and businesses, calling false alarms public safety hazards, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.

In the historic maritime village of Northport, the locals are buzzing about dollars and cents.

"Fees and the charges have not been upgraded in years," Mayor Damon McMullen said.

Fees for false alarms, the mayor said.

"Just not 15 minutes ago we had another false alarm at a residence," McMullen said.

The village has a population of 7,500, but officials are on target to respond to 300 alarms this year. So far, only 8 percent have been real emergencies. The rest have been mistakes, triggered by faulty wiring, wind, malfunctioning transmitters and homeowner error.

"Every time the fire truck goes out there is wear and tear on vehicle, there's expenses for the fuel. You are taking resources away from what could potentially be a true emergency," Northport Police Chief William Ricca said.

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Currently, the first two false alarms are free. Responding to a third is $25. The village is proposing new fees. No charge for the first two false alarms within a two-year period, but a third false alarm would carry a $250 fine, a fourth $500, a fifth $1,000, a sixth $1,500 and seventh $2,000.

"If they decide to make these fees too high, the homeowners are going to cancel their service," said Brent Mele of the Long Island Alarm Association.

Mele said that could lead to serious risk if monitoring services are told to call homeowners only, not first responders.

Villagers had a mixed reaction to the proposal.

"You want to be safe, and you think there's a fire in your kitchen, but you put it out in two minutes," one person said.

"They should show up. I don't think we should get charged. That is coming out of our taxes," another said.

"A nuisance for people who have to hear the alarm in the neighborhood," another said.

The increases in false alarm fees are not meant to be punitive. Officials said they are now examining all of the fees the village charges. A public hearing will be held next week.

Village officials said the proposed false alarm fee hikes are not about money grabs, but about public safety.

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