Municipality requires alarm companies to administer permit process

Thursday, May 28, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Alarm companies doing business in Lexington-Fayette County have been pushing for change lately. Ordinance No. 56-2005 has been on the books for four years, but “has been ignored up to now due to it being so hard to manage,” said Clay Russell president of Richmond, Ky.-based Commonwealth Communications in an email interview. “Now the city lawyers say the police department must begin enforcement.”

According to KBFAA area director Jeremy Bates, of Sonitrol Lexington, there are a number of issues with the ordinance, but of primary concern is the industry’s required involvement in administration of the municipality’s licensing process. “We have a unique situation where the alarm companies in our county are required to collect the registration and renewal fees for alarm permits. That got slipped in on us last minute when the current ordinance got passed. And we’re obviously wanting to relieve ourselves of that burden,” Bates said. “My company in particular, we had to hire a new person to handle all this. That’s the biggest change we want to get made.” The cost of administering the municipality’s licensing process is taking a particularly heavy toll on some in the industry. According to Russell, “The mom-and-pop operations will be shut out because we simply don’t have the manpower, or profit margins, to work in that town and manage the collection of Lexington’s ‘taxes’ as well.”

Security Industry Alarm Coalition executive director Stan Martin said this kind of blurring of responsibilities happens occasionally and can create tension. “This is kind of like sending Ford Motor Company the registration and speeding ticket fines. Certainly, the industry has accepted helping the police department—because we’re there in contact with people—with the initial permit application, the initial registration fee, and helping to process that piece of it,” Martin said. “In a partnership, we’re willing to help. But clearly we need to draw the line when it comes to collecting fees.”

Calls and emails to Sergeant James Decker, who heads the Lexington-Fayette Urban County False Alarm Reduction Unit, were not returned by press time.

Bates said area industry representatives and county law enforcement and government officials were due to meet before the end of May to discuss potential changes to the ordinance, including who administers the initial permitting and renewal processes, as well as more strict licensing requirements for alarm technicians. “Some companies have just eaten the extra cost [of administering the permit process], some have passed it on to the consumer. We want the revenue cabinet to be responsible for collecting renewals,” Bates said. “We’re not being combative with the police. We’re trying to work hand-in-hand to create these changes.”