Paradise Valley continues to mull alarm system overhaul

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert outlines potential changes to the local alarm system model at Town Hall Thursday, Nov. 4. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert outlines potential changes to the local alarm system model at Town Hall Thursday, Nov. 4. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Fittro)

After a year of discussion, Town of Paradise Valley officials have been presented with the option of altering its hyper-local alarm system or exiting the program all together in order to remain financially stable.

Since October 2015 Paradise Valley Town Council has been searching for a way to create a cost-neutral alarm system in order to maintain a safety service offered since 1984.

At a Nov. 3 study session at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, the council was presented with four different business models to consider to sustain or end the service.

In recent years the hardware and infrastructure has become outdated and on this past New Years Eve the system failed, according to Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert.

The alarm system today is fully operational through emergency assistance from a private company, but the recent outage that spanned a seven-day period from Dec. 31, 2015 to Jan. 8 illustrates the necessity for repair to the antiquated system, Chief Wingert points out.

Paradise Valley homeowners have the option, for a monthly fee of $35-$50 depending on number of zones monitored, to have a hardline directly into the Paradise Valley Police Department’s dispatch center for when emergencies occur. If an alarm connected to the Paradise Valley alarm system is tripped, a call for service will ring directly into the department’s dispatch center, town officials say.

Paradise Valley Town Council has held a number of study sessions over the past year discussing what the right avenue is to navigate the alarm service.

There are 420 resident subscribers, representing an annual customer loss rate of 13 percent. The peak subscription was in 2008 at 610 contracts. The alarm generates approximately $195,000 in revenue a year, Chief Wingert said.

“We’ve presented to the council on the alarm program four times, the last time we were in front of you was in June of 2016,” said Chief Wingert at the Nov. 3 study session. “You gave us direction to find a business model that was cost neutral. We’ll bring you back an update at this point, but I don’t have a cost neutral model for you.”

The four options Chief Wingert presented included these aspects:

  • No. 1: a capital infusion of $308,000 from the General Fund over 10 years with a goal increase of subscribers;
  • No. 2: a recruitment-driven sustainability option that would increase subscribers to nearly 1,000 over 10 years;
  • No. 3: Rate-based sustainability that would increase rates from an average $40 to $73,50 monthly;
  • No. 4: Capital-protection exit strategy with a future shutdown date, and the remaining fund balance estimated to be around $400,000, would be reinvested based on council’s direction.

Major issues with these options, says Chief Wingert, are that he isn’t sure the town can rapidly increase its subscriber base as would be needed, and would be hard to compete with expanding services offered by other alarm systems.

“All the models I came up with need subsidization from the General Fund, and is like the council willing to subsidize the technology and/or the operating cost with general fund dollars?” asked Chief Wingert during his presentation.

Council members all voiced differing perspectives on what route is best to take, with a consensus to continue the issue to a future meeting.

“I’m a subscriber and chief knows that — it’s been a good service for me and my family,” said councilmember Jerry Bein-Willner.

Jerry Bien-Willner

Jerry Bien-Willner

“One of the reasons I choose the town was because I don’t like the middleman, I don’t know the middleman, I don’t trust the middleman. You know, i just imagine someone sitting in a call center somewhere knowing when I’m home and not home. I don’t have that concern with public employees.”

Additionally, Mr. Bein-Willner says he would like to see more specific information before making a final decision.

“It’s been a long and windy road, in terms of what we can and can’t do, and I’d like to get to the end of the road before we make a decision,” he said.

The personal aspect that the town’s alarm service offers is a sentiment Councilwoman Maria Syms shares with the others.

“I’ve talked about this before, the comfort level of our police officers responding as someone who uses this service that’s a tremendous comfort level to me and my family and I know if I’m feeling that way, others probably are too,” she said.

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to revisit the issue at its Thursday, Nov. 17 meeting.

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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