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City close to terminating alarm services being provided to local businesses, residents

The city of Sunnyside's finance and administrative services subcommittee last night concluded it will once again recommend discontinuing alarm services provided by the police department to residents and businesses.

Without personnel costs factored in, Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck said the system used to provide alarm services would need a new computer, as well as an alarm receiver. The receiver would cost the city approximately $20,000, and a computer cost is estimated at $1,200.

Annual costs for operating the system are estimated at more than $6,000.

"The biggest piece is staff time," said Schenck, stating there are four full-time dispatchers, of which one spends a substantial amount of time maintaining and monitoring the alarm system.

The police department has not maintained a record of which customers have not paid alarm bills because, said Schenck, that would require more staff time.

He said, "We want that staff time back."

Schenck said the police department has a full staff and with the additional officers patrolling the streets, dispatchers are needed to provide assistance to the patrol officers.

If the city were to charge alarm customers for the cost of staff time in addition to maintenance and operation, Schenck said monthly alarm bills from the city would be in excess of $40. He said customers could find services provided by a private company for a lower rate.

Finding a better deal elsewhere, the city's customer base would drop and the city would need to raise rates again.

Currently city of Sunnyside alarm customers are charged $120 annually, which Schenck said does not cover the costs of staffing.

"We're doing everything possible to get our FTE's back," he said, stating it no longer makes sense for the city to provide alarm services when the staff could be better utilized for public safety and private alarm companies provide quality services for less.

Councilman Pablo Garcia is the subcommittee chair and said he believes the other council members need to understand the staffing needs of the police department. He suggested Schenck explain the staffing demands when the issue is presented again.

Councilmen Don Vlieger and Tom Gehlen agreed, stating they believe it isn't any longer necessary for the city to provide alarm services.

Vlieger noted Sunnyside is the only city in the state of Washington that still provides the service to its citizens.

As a result of the discussion, the subcommittee agreed to once again recommend the elimination of the service.

The council members proposed the issue for the Monday, Dec. 5, Sunnyside City Council workshop as an action item.

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