Verona requires KnoxBoxes for local businesses

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Plan allows access to keys for police, firefighters

Verona has given police and fire officials quick, easy access to local businesses in the case of an emergency.

City officials have approved a new ordinance that requires local businesses to install KnoxBoxes, a lockbox that houses a key to the business. The only people who will have access to the keys that open the lock boxes will be on-duty law enforcement officers and firefighters.

City Clerk Laura Hazelwood said the idea behind the KnoxBoxes are to give local authorities a fast, safe way to respond to emergency calls and avoid property damage in case of false alarms.

“Being able to get into buildings without having to bust through a $3,000 door is probably a good plan,” Hazelwood said.

KnoxBoxes can range from approximately $10 to $280. Under the ordinance, local businesses would be required to purchase their own KnoxBox, which will be specifically keyed by the KnoxBox company to be accessible by a key specifically made for the Verona Police and Fire departments.

Alderman Rodney Bogart said Verona residents will also be able to get KnoxBoxes keyed for the police and fire departments.

Alderwoman Susan Angel said she is planning to get one for her home so authorities can access her property in case of an emergency.

Alderman Mike Haynes said he was not interested in approving the ordinance and forcing Verona business owners to purchase and install KnoxBoxes.

“The more the government helps out, the more you’re screwed,” Haynes said.

Angel made a motion to approve the ordinance and was seconded by Bogart. That motion was passed 3-2, with Bogart and Angel voting in favor, Haynes and newly appointed Alderwoman Amy Spears voting against and Mayor Joseph Heck breaking the tied vote in favor of the ordinance.

The city also approved a new ordinance that eliminates the red tag system that warns residents who are past due on sewer payments that their utility is going to be shut off.

“Right now, they basically get three notices before shut-off,” Heck said. “Red tags take up a lot of man hours and its a waste of city time to babysit people who don’t pay their bills.”

Bogart made a motion to eliminate the red tags and that motion passed 3-1 with Mike Haynes voting against.

Haynes said he would be more comfortable eliminating red tags if the city sent notices of overdue bills via certified mail to ensure that residents are getting their bills and notices.

City Attorney Ron Gold said residents should be aware that they are receiving sewer service from the city and are required to pay for that service, even if they do not receive bills.

For his part, Bogart said the current system, even with the red tags removed from the process, gives residents too much time to get behind on their bills before utilities are shut off.

Bogart said that residents can be as much as three months behind on their payments by the time the city shuts off water services.

Bogart said he homes to return to the city council with a new plan for shut-off notices that will keep residents from getting so far behind on payments at the city’s July city council meeting.

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