Southington council OKs excessive call ordinance

Published on Monday, 24 September 2018 21:12

Staff Writer

BRISTOL - The Town Council approved the excessive call ordinance by a 7-to-2 vote at Monday’s meeting.

Councilors John Barry, Kelly Morrissey and Chris Palmieri tried to table the vote but that motion was opposed by Councilors William Dziedzic, Dawn Miceli, Chris Poulos, Tom Lombardi, Mike Riccio and Victoria Triano. The ordinance then passed by majority vote.

Barry argued that he wanted the ordinance vetted by the police commission. 

Councilor Victoria Triano said the council and not the commission sets town policy. She said the ordinance puts responsibility back on the businesses. She argued it does not discriminate against any businesses and will be used sparingly.

At the last council meeting, town Attorney Carolyn Futtner said the council has been working for some time on the change in city policy. 

“It’s not that you won’t be able to call the police or fire department or ambulance,” she said. “Once you reach 20 calls, police will speak with you about it. Once it gets to 25 calls in a fiscal year, then there can be fines after an appellate period - the maximum under state law: $250 per call.” 

Futtner said at Monday’s meeting that following the last  meeting an expanded list of exemptions had been added to the ordinance. Calls related to incidents of crimes in progress, domestic violence, trespassing and mental health emergencies would not count toward this  limit.

The discussion of excessive police calls was brought on by residents of Birchcrest Drive, who have been complaining for years of disruptions they blame on the Bridge Family Center, which cares for teenage girls taken out of abusive situations

Councilor William Dziedzic asked Futtner if concerns about “disparate impact” on the group home were being considered.

“Under federal law we will be held to a higher standard of review to prove that there isn’t a less restrictive way of handling these calls,” said Futtner. 

During public comment, Erica Byrne and another speaker opposed the ordinance. Byrne said she had also brought with her a list of 20 signatures from residents opposed to it.

“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” said Byrne. “It seems like all the reasons the police department would be called for are excluded anyway. I’m not sure I understand the point. I can see little upside and three downsides. There is a risk of danger to establishments, it creates a perverse incentive for the Birchcrest neighbors to call more on this group home and it creates an extra administrative burden for the police department.”

Resident Jim Sinclair also opposed the ordinance. He argued that the ordinance would make people pause and wonder before calling 911. He argued that it would be discriminatory against the group home and that the ordinance was written “for one business.”

Birchcrest Drive neighbor Bob Sargeant said the neighbors have called the police 36 times out of 646 calls in 10 years related to the group home. Most calls were made by the home itself. He said each time police responded it cost the town $828. He said if the property owner is fined changes will be made. 

Council Chairman Chris Palmieri explained last meeting that the person making the calls would not be fined. Rather, the establishment where the reported incidents occur would be held responsible. 

Deputy Police Chief Bill Palmieri said last meeting that police will meet with property owners to determine why so many calls are being made.

“We will try to figure out how we can better improve relations and consider ways to mitigate the problems,” said Bill Palmieri. “Once it gets past 25, we will submit a report to the council for review and then the town can proceed with enforcement.” 

The deputy chief stressed that this ordinance “doesn’t mean people can’t call the police anymore.” 

“Ninety-nine percent of calls won’t fall under this ordinance,” he said.

Doing the report of the sewer committee, sewer committee chairman David Zoni reported that Deuce & Company will be installing a new fuel cell at the waste treatment plant at no charge. This will save the town $65,000 annually. 

The council also later approved the purchase of a new, $355,000 vacuum truck. It will be paid for by a reserve in the sewer fund and the old truck will be given to public works.

At the start of the meeting, The council chairman called for a moment of silence in honor of the late Rosemary Champagne. She served on the Bradley Hospital Committee and contributed to the Apple Harvest Festival and Southington Relay For Life. She owned The Hair Expo Salon for 43 years and died Sept. 18.

“Her contributions will be remembered for a long time,” said Palmieri.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington Herald on Monday, 24 September 2018 21:12. Updated: Monday, 24 September 2018 21:14.