Industry works with Nassau County to kill legislation, save jobs

Thursday, January 1, 2009

MINEOLA, N.Y.--Security industry representatives on Jan. 28 met with Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, at Nassau County Police Headquarters here, to ask him to rethink proposed legislation that would threaten the alarm industry in Nassau County. The proposed legislation would have connected home and business burglar alarms directly to the Nassau County Police Department. The proposal called for alarm system owners to pay a $300 yearly fee in exchange for monitoring and response services. According to published reports, more than 400 licensed alarm companies, representing 2,000 to 3,000 jobs, would have been negatively impacted if the legislation passed.

According to industry attorney Ken Kirschenbaum, of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, PC, the proposal showed a lack consideration of all the complexities of alarm monitoring. "I just came back from a meeting with Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, which was also attended by the offices of the Long Island Alarm Association and some other local alarm companies," Kirschenbaum said. "The Police Commissioner told us that they hadn't thought all of the issues out when they put the proposed legislation together. They were focusing strictly on a revenue raising concept without looking at the other side of the operation--the expenses involved, not to mention issues such as liability--and the Police Commissioner was confident that the legislation as proposed now is certainly not going forward."

Andrew Lowitt, vice president of Hicksville, N.Y.-based Lowitt Alarms, pointed out the complications inherent in government agencies getting involved in the realm of private business. "There are major concerns about job loss. Whenever you have a governmental agency going into private sector business, that's a concern--a big concern," Lowitt said. "And I think the aspect of the employment ramifications in the county outweigh any proposed benefits." Lowitt also stressed Nassau County as an example of why it's so important for the alarm industry to stay informed through industry associations like SIAC and CSAA. "I want to thank both Stan Martin at SIAC and Celia Besore at the CSAA for alerting the industry and helping us resolve this issue satisfactorily," Lowitt said. "It's important that the industry stay in tune with their local municipalities and with any potential ordinances coming up that may affect them, and to work with their local legislators to make sure that the industry's voice is heard."

Members of County Executive Thomas Suozzi's staff reportedly drafted the proposal with no input from the alarm industry. Kirschenbaum said industry representatives in attendance at the recent meeting called for more cooperation between lawmakers and the alarm industry. "We suggested to the Commissioner that there be a better dialog between the alarm industry and the Nasssau County Police Department," Kirschenbaum said. "It would benefit both the police department and the industry. I believe the commissioner was extremely receptive to that, and we're looking forward to the appointment of an alarm coordinator who would begin working more closely with the industry."

Commissioner Mulvey said the intent of the proposal was not to hurt the alarm industry. "There was a day when all the alarms came here to the police department, and they came to the individual precincts, and we ultimately got out that business as more and more alarms were installed here in our county," Commissioner Mulvey said. "And now with our new CAD [computer-aided dispatch] systems and whatnot, I thought that we would get back into the business ... having determined that there are a lot of local people involved in the business, that we might be impacting some of the security of their jobs, I've agreed to table this, and we're probably not going to pursue it."

NYBFAA board member Ron Petrarca, president of Electronix Systems, is afraid the fight is just beginning. "I don't think it's over. Because at the meeting the commissioner alleged to the fact that they had a million dollar gap in the budget and now they had to come up with a plan to fill it," Petrarca said.

Commissioner Mulvey said that a tentative plan was in place to at least partially fill that budget hole. "We have a system here in the county where residential and commercial alarms need to acquire a permit from the county, and that's a $25 a year fee ... We agreed as a group that I'm probably not capturing all of the alarm systems here in the county ... so we agreed to work together to see if I can garner more of those alarm systems and get them permitted."