Town officials eye solution to Paradise Valley police alarm service

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert, at left, with Robert Kornovich, the town’s IT director, during a recent work session discussion. (File photo)

Officials at the Paradise Valley Police Department are confident they have found a viable solution for its police alarm system — one loyal residents have used for decades.

After more than a year of searching for a solution to the police department’s legacy alarm system, Police Chief Peter Wingert told town leaders on Jan. 25, that he has found and selected a vendor to continue the service.

The conversation was held during a Paradise Valley Town Council meeting at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

The Paradise Valley Police Department alarm system appears to be a beloved option for town residents, especially those who live alone. Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner has publicly stated his appreciation for the system, which gave him comfort as a child.

Paradise Valley homeowners have the option, for a monthly fee of $35-$50 depending on number of zones monitored, to connect 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.

(file photo)

There are 355 subscribers to the service, Chief Wingert said, noting that the peak subscription was 610 contracts in 2008.

A seven-day outage that occurred Dec. 31, 2015, to Jan. 8, 2016, illustrated the necessity to repair an antiquated system to town officials.

During the next calendar year Chief Wingert and town officials sought solutions.

The decision came down to weighing options of upgrading and improving the alarm system or ending the resident service altogether.

On Dec. 1, 2016, town 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. Councilman Paul Dembow and then-Councilwoman Mary Hamway voted for the termination of the service.

An alarm work group was created following the decision, including Vice Mayor Bien-Willner, Councilmember Mark Stanton, Town Manager Kevin Burke, Chief Wingert and Town Senior IT Analyst Robert Kornovich.

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner credits a local resident who volunteered their expertise to help the working group find a model that would work for the municipality.

“I’m just elated we all took an attitude of not quitting,” he said on Jan. 25. “I thought maybe I’m kind of alone with this, but once we started talking about this program — there are a lot of folks who live alone, some of them in our senior community, and having that direct contact with PD is really important to them.”

Seeking a solution

In May 2017 Paradise Valley Town Council gave support of releasing a request for proposal seeking a partner on a hybrid alarm monitoring system, according to a town staff report.

Priorities of the partnership were to include being able to receive signals from customers and providing them to the police department, and respect to users’ desire for reduced response time and data privacy.

The RFP was released in October 2017, with a due date of Nov. 17, 2017, Chief Wingert explained to elected leaders at the January meeting.

A total of four proposals were received.

The highest scoring proposal belonged to Maryland-based Dynamark Monitoring.

“The important thing is that, in Dynamark’s model, they’re not going to do any action,” Chief Wingert explained of the preferred provider. “They’re not going to pick up and talk to the people or route that call in any way.”

The Dynamark system will take an alarm call from the user’s house, through the internet, through a telephone system to Dynamark’s facility, and via Virtual Private Network or VPN, to Paradise Valley Police Department dispatch.

For dispatchers, the process really won’t change too much, he says. The dispatch now has a screen with software on it that alerts to a tripped alarm.

“We can change the software and it will be the same,” he said in his description of the service.

While Dynamark is based out of Maryland, Western Regional Account Manager Rich Cowen lives in the Valley for any assistance needed.

Dynamark’s cost per resident is $2.50 per account per month, Chief Wingert said, describing their model as revenue neutral with ongoing financial viability.

“Their monthly charges to us is reasonable and we are not going upside down with our costs,” he said. “We have knowledge with the Dynamark model that the system will work all the time.”

The Town will retain ownership of the data, although Dynamark will have access to it. The master database of accounts will be the town’s property, and they will control the subscriber contracts and subscription fees, Chief Wingert noted.

Mr. Burke says the subscriber’s will be asked to sign a new contract and update their emergency contact information and data.

The Town Council is expected to render a vote on the matter on Feb. 8.

Data needs to be updated before it is transferred to Dynamark, Chief Wingert says, but noted he is comfortable with the proposed solution.

“There is some work for us to get done, still, and that’s going to require some staffing,” he said. “Certainly not something that’s out of the realm of possibilities, though I feel a whole lot more comfortable than I did a year and a half ago about this program.”

Unlocking the solution

Councilmember Stanton says he is glad the group was able to find a workable solution.

Mark Stanton

“I think this is a good solution,” he said.

“I’m grateful that we found a potential partner that we can look to, I think there are great solutions here for the residents and I think there are great solutions here for the police department.”

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner expressed his passion for the program, noting how excited he was. He expressed gratitude and thanked members of the alarm working group, his council colleagues and Chief Wingert for bringing up his concerns with the alarm infrastructure.

“We were all concerned about getting something to work, and I basically begged to let me try to do something about this because I really think it’s a great thing, a differentiator for our community,” he said.

“And the subscriber base — that number we have, 355 — those are die-hards. There’s enthusiasm among that subscriber base. They don’t want to go.”

Jerry Bien-Willner

Mr. Bien-Willner says the key focus was realizing the antiquated state of equipment the police department was working with.

“We tried to find solutions and we hit brick walls. Chief went out of state talked to other chiefs who had this model — no one could figure out a model that would work,” he said.

“At that meeting, I have to give Paul Dembow a lot of credit, because even though he didn’t want to do it, I guess my begging and confidence of council paid off, because he said ‘if you’re going to do it this is the guy you need.’

“And that person was John Jennings, who’s a local resident, volunteered his time, has a tremendous credibility in the industry. He built up the premiere alarm company in this market with his family and he was a key to unlock a lot of this problem.”

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

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