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An alarming hike

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge to raise fines
300 percent for false alarms

New Chicago Ridge Fire Chief George Sheets’ review of department records revealed an alarming number of responses to false alarms, many of them at Chicago Ridge Mall.
In fact, firefighters responded to 86 such calls in 2013—a considerable waste of time and manpower, Sheets said, especially if another call came in at the same time.
So he is calling for stiffer penalties and increasing fines 300 percent. He made his recommendations at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.
Sheets said that a village ordinance lacked the teeth to reduce false alarms. The ordinance required business owners to pay $25 for each false alarm beginning with the seventh call.
For many business owners or managers, incurring the minimal fee was easier than driving to back to the mall to reset the alarm, Sheets said.
The fee is now $100 beginning with the second false alarm, Sheets said.
Sheets also has recommended an increase in the ambulance rate after realizing that the village’s rate was one of the lowest in the region.
“(The increase) does not affect the residents of Chicago Ridge,” Sheets said.
Instead, ambulance fees are paid by insurance or Medicare, and the village writes off any amount it cannot collect, Sheets said.
The fee has not been increased in six years.
“We’ve been quite a bit lower for quite a while,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “We’re behind the times. There should be a rate increase.”
Sheets also is recommending a new billing company to collect ambulance call fees, a decision the board delayed until ironing out some contract details.
Sheets described the higher fees for false alarms and the increase in ambulance fees as “major issues” that required his immediate attention.
Two months ago when he was hired, Sheets said that evaluating the department would be the first priority of his new job.
“Based on my mandate from the board, you wanted me to do an evaluation and I’ve done that,” said Sheets, who also serves as Oak Lawn fire chief.
“There will be some more things coming along,”