A tougher new law aimed at reducing false fire alarms may be passed in June in Lower Macungie Township.
Township commissioner Roger C. Reis updated his colleagues on proposed penalties for false alarms at their public meeting Thursday night.
“Thirty to 40 percent of the alarms our fire department has to respond to are false alarms,” said Reis. “It’s a waste of time and money. It’s something we would like to try to lessen.”
He said the township staff is recommending changes in the existing false alarm ordinance.
That ordinance allows up to three false alarms in a 12-month period before anyone has to pay a fine. The proposed change would allow only one penalty-free false alarm every six months.
Also, now no one can be fined more than $300 for exceeding the allowable number of false alarms. “In theory, it could be a dollar or it could be $299,” said Reis.
The proposed change will make it a set fine rather than a sliding fine, with different penalties for homes and businesses. Reis explained the fine will be $150 per incident for residential structures and $300 for commercial structures.
“We’re not trying to use this as a fund-raiser or a funding stream,” said Reis. “We’re trying to prevent false alarms. Sometimes, unfortunately, if people don’t have some sanction for their action they continue that action.”
Reis said false alarms are discouraging to the township’s volunteer firefighters who often leave their jobs to respond. He said they could be hurt when responding to fire calls that turn out to be false alarms. He said the change “will protect our volunteers, protect our fire department and, in the long run, protect our citizens.”
Reis said his public safety committee will review and make a recommendation on the ordinance changes when it meets at 6:15 p.m. June 6. He added those changes already have been reviewed and approved by the township solicitor.
He expects the five-member board will vote on advertising the revised false alarm ordinance when it meets after his committee meeting -- at 7 p.m. June 6 -- followed by a vote on the ordinance at the June 20 commissioners meeting.
Also during Thursday’s meeting:
- Commissioners gave preliminary and final approval for a 100,000-square foot addition on a 270,000-square-foot warehouse building called Lehigh Rope at 2834 Schoeneck Road in the Lehigh Valley South Industrial Park. The addition will be built on the existing parking lot on the south side of the building and the parking lot will be relocated to a field south of that. Despite occasional complaints about too many warehouses in the township -- based on the fact that they use large amounts of space and generate additional truck traffic but employ relatively few people -- no one from the public had any questions or concerns before the expansion was approved. Nine waivers were part of the commissioners’ approval. The reason for the expansion was not explained to commissioners.
- Randy Schmeltzle was hired as a crew chief by the township, at an hourly salary of $25.78. Schmeltzle now is employed as assistant road crew chief in Upper Milford Township, where he has lived all his life. He will replace David Terfinko, who is retiring as crew chief July 1, after 30 years on the road crew. Reis noted the job was posted internally, but no one applied.
- The single-lane Church Lane Bridge, which has been closed for repairs more than a year, should fixed and reopened by the end of May, said Alan Fornwalt of Keystone Consulting Engineers. It was the second such prediction commissioners have heard in a month. In mid-April, township engineer William Erdman of Keystone predicted the bridge over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks should reopen by early May. Fornwalt indicated a permit to work on the bridge has just been issued by Norfolk Southern.
- Resident George Doughty, who serves on the township planning commission, was appointed to the Lower Macungie Environmental Council and Joseph Pugliese was appointed chairman of the Audit Advisory Committee.
- Boy Scout Seth Workman was honored with a proclamation from commissioners for attaining the rank of Eagle