Police & Fire

Town Board, Seniors Debate Alarm Permit Fees

Jack Bell, a Retreat at Carmel resident, discusses alarm permit fee issues with the Town Board last week. Credits: Bob Dumas

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - How do you define an “alarm?”

The was at the core of the debate between some senior citizens and members of the Carmel Town Board at last week’s meeting, as the residents claimed the $40 alarm permit fee they were being charged was not in the spirit of the law.
In December 1992, the Town of Carmel passed a local code that calls for residents to pay an annual alarm permit fee—currently $40—if such a device is installed in their home.

Chapter 37 of the code, Alarm Devices and Systems, states that no residence or business shall “install or maintain any police and/or fire alarm device… without having obtained a permit from the permitting authority.”

Sign Up for E-News

The code defines an alarm device as “any device which when activated by fire or other emergency, transmits a prerecorded message or other signal by telephone, radio, central alarm station, audible signal and/or visible signal designed to cause notification of the police department and/or fire department for a response.”

The group of senior residents at last week’s meeting reside at The Retreat at Carmel, where they say they are being charged the annual alarm permit fees for their pull-string alarms; alarms, which, when activated, will set off an audible alarm and flash a light, but are not connected to a central alarm station that would directly notify the police, fire department or EMS. They pointed out that senior communities throughout Carmel and Mahopac have similar pull-string alarms, and none of them should be included under Chapter 37’s edicts.

“The $40 pull-string fee—we consider it an attack,” said Jack Bell, a Retreat at Carmel resident. “This is not about $40. It’s about principle.”

Bell said that the law’s permit fees were intended to be a way to reduce the cost of false alarms. But since the pull-string alarms aren’t connected in any way to first responders, they should be exempt from the fee.

“They are not connected to a central station,” Bell said. “I believe the town is taking advantage of these regulations.”

Supervisor Ken Schmitt said he doesn’t view the code as ambiguous and feels that the reason for the complaints is because of the money.

“I see no reason to eliminate pull alarms from the code,” he said. “They are designed to notify someone if there is an emergency. This is a $40 fee. If there was no fee attached, no one would care.”

Councilman John Lupinacci agreed, saying the complaints were all about the money.
“We have gotten angry letters telling us, ‘we don’t care about your fees; we won’t pay your fees!’” he said. “If you want to tighten up the language [of the code], I love it. But let’s talk about what this is really about. It’s about 11 cents a day. Is it an alarm—yes or no?”

Lupinacci said the pull-string devices fall under the code as defined: even though they are not wired into a central station, they cause an “audible signal and/or visible signal designed to cause notification of the police department and/or fire department for a response,” even if it is done by someone who observes the signals and then calls 911.

Councilman Frank Lombardi, who has visited The Retreat at Carmel and spoken with the residents about their complaint, said he’s not so sure about the code’s interpretation. 

“I am not sure that the indirectness of it makes it an alarm,” he said.

The board discussed devices such as the Medic Alert bracelets and medallions seniors can wear and press for help should they fall and can’t get up. Lombardi said he felt they didn’t fall under the code, but Lupinacci insisted they did.

Schmitt said representatives from The Retreat have been meeting with him for some time on the issue and were not happy with the answers he was giving them.

“You weren’t satisfied with the answers you got from me, so you lobbied other board members who would listen to you.”

“You just gave me the bum’s rush,” Bell shot back.

Bell said if one goes by the way “alarm” is defined in the code, it can reach absurd proportions.

“We have people with Life Alert, ADT, car alarms—where does it stop?” he asked. “Next week we will be back here talking about alarm clocks.”

Jerry Ryff, another Retreat resident, said that the pull-string alarms should not fall under the code because “they don’t do anything.”

“Someone has to recognize it (the sound or flashing lights) and then do something [such as call 911],” he said. “It doesn’t initiate anything on its own. The purpose of the fee is to compensate the town [for false alarms]. This system doesn’t [create false alarms].”

Councilman Suzi McDonough was absent from last week’s meeting, but the remaining four board members seemed evenly divided on rewriting the code and whether to eliminate the pull-string alarms from permit requirements. They said they would revisit the matter with McDonough present and if a majority felt the code needed amending then it could be pursued.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


The DACA Dilemma and the Trick of the Trickle-Down Theory

Here is our very own Sen. Charles Schumer on the Senate floor last week: “President Trump has stood in the way of a bipartisan solution to DACA, a problem he created in the first place, and yet the president is in this dream world. He thinks, ‘Oh, I can blame Democrats for the impasse.’ As I said, only in the 1984 world where up is down and black is white could this be true.

Cuomo’s Frivolous Lawsuits Cost Us Money

Since Donald Trump became president, New York State has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. This includes those filed by both Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It does not include lawsuits filed by the City of New York. Most of them are political in nature, filed to please the plaintiffs’ voting base. In the real world, if we had filed ...

Beautiful, 'Clean' Coal

After completing his first full year in office—an alarming year, at that— Donald Trump has concluded that climate change is not a significant national threat and that the sacred lands and waters of this country should be sold to the highest bidder. 

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement; deregulated national landmarks; freed public lands for ...

Multigrain, Please

I have no craving for white bread; it’s too plain, predictable and tasteless for me. I hunger for a chunk of multigrain or rye, maybe even a good-sized piece of pumpernickel raisin, with a schmear of cream cheese on the side.

I have no appetite for bland, clean-cut, middle-of-the-road, isolationist politics. And I find unsettling the cultural sameness, gross consumerism and incurious ...

I Love 'I Hate Halet'

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors. Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

He has just ended a star turn in the ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

When you have short hair, it is inevitable that you will spend an inordinate amount of time growing your hair out and then getting fed up and cutting it again. I have been down this hair-brained road several dozen times before, complaining for months until I am convinced my husband is going to cut it all off while I sleep just so he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about it one more ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 28, 6:00 PM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

Freedom from Smoking

Health & Wellness

Thu, March 1, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Fri, March 2, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Bazzo Needs to Get His Facts Straight

February 15, 2018

To the editor,

Once again Mr. Bazzo, in his Feb. 8, column cherry picks facts, ignores other facts, passes along lies and spins so fast to the right that it’s amazing he doesn’t drill himself into the earth.

Bazzo is correct—the economy is doing well, and we should give credit where credit is due. Thank you, President Obama for taking the economy from the brink of another ...