Paradise Valley devises feasible alarm system remedy

A view of Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert addressing the Paradise Valley Town Council in 2016. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Town of Paradise Valley officials may have found a viable solution to a question left unanswered for over two years: what is the future of the town’s residential alarm system?

During a May 11 study session held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, Police Chief Peter Wingert, Town Manager Kevin Burke, councilmember Mark Stanton and Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner illustrated their commitment to finding a solution for residents using the public safety service.

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 service offered since 1984.

The system’s hardware and software have become outdated and on New Year’s Eve 2015 the system failed, according to Chief Wingert.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, 2016 illustrates the necessity for repair to the antiquated system, Chief Wingert contends.

For a monthly fee of $35-$50 depending on a number of zones monitored, residents can pay to have a hard line directly tied to 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.

In December 2016 the council voted 5-2 to not terminate the project and to explore additional paths for a hybrid business model for at least the next 60 days to a year.

The alarm monitoring working group now believes it can still continue to offer the service to the 400 subscribers, but no new subscribers will be able to join.

Ultimately, the town wishes to explore a partnership with a monitoring provider who can receive signals from the town subscribers, and provide them to the Paradise Valley Police Department dispatcher.

The Paradise Valley Police Department receives calls when a residential alarm goes off. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

A doable solution

Town officials say they were able to identify a new solution that wasn’t previously explored.

No outside alarm vendors had come forward to assist the town simply because they viewed the town as a competitor and feared losing customers to the town’s service.

“We didn’t get any takers on the hybrid solution, and it appears the reason being it just looks like you’re taking subscribers away from them,” Mr. Burke explained to the town council.

“The key component is, we’re willing to help and willing to participate if you promise you’re not going to try to take our subscribers away from us. So we’re capping it, and we’re letting existing town subscribers stay in but you’re not going to try to recruit any more.”

According to Chief Wingert, when a resident has an emergency with the present system they trigger an alarm within their home that is connected via POTS — Plane Old Telephone System.

Once the alarm is received, a signal processor alerts a database server, which then goes to the police dispatcher’s alarm computer.

The new system would be able to send the initial alarm call via POTS, cellular data, radio or internet, to a private central monitoring vendor.

That private vendor would then send the call through a dedicated ringdown line to the police department. That vendor would be required to service all the town’s current subscribers.

The town would not sign up any new subscribers. Residents not currently subscribing to the town’s service would need in the future to contract with private alarm companies.

Jerry Bien-Willner

“When we were in a crisis we went to the industry and said ‘well we need to have these types of conditions,’ and they said ‘well we can’t do that because we don’t do that for anyone,’” Vice Mayor Bien-Willner explained. “And also, by the way, at the time our system’s failing so it’s like a double whammy.”

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner said the work put in by city staff was excellent, but there needed to be additional steps to really find out the industry standard.

The proposed solution to the alarm monitoring system doesn’t include an end-date to exit the service, which is one of the bittersweet aspects of this program, Mayor Collins said.

“The two things I struggle most with are the cap on people who can join the (town’s) system, so we’re continuing a program, but we’re capping it so no one else can participate. I struggle a little bit with that idea,” Mayor Collins explained.

“Also, with no end date in sight. I think it kind of rings the bell on all the other items I think we’re trying to address.”

Key points identified by the police chief included reliable and proven service with current technology, industry experience, reasonable pricing options and a local presence.

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner, who personally uses the alarm system, says he and the others within the working group really wanted to find a solution for the hundreds of residents who use the service.

“Any solution to a tough problem usually includes compromise — the comprise here was we maintain the status quo,” the vice mayor explained.

“The main thing I think we all saw, is that this is a business and it’s highly technical and it’s highly expertise. Unless you have the resources and the customer base, to support that level of excellence — the town would never go into the business of developing software because we can’t do it — this isn’t maybe that complicated, but it’s pretty close.”

The town’s next step is to formulate the key points into a request for proposal for vendors.

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