York City's 127-year-old fire-alarm system is going to stick around a while longer. Mounting maintenance costs and a desire to help city businesses save money motivated a proposal to phase out the Gamewell system.
But, in a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the York City Council rejected the proposal that would have immediately removed the requirement for new businesses to connect to Gamewell and eventually terminated the entire infrastructure.
Gamewell is an old-fashioned system but "the best system out there," according to Fred DeSantis, president of the city's firefighters' union.
Triggered manually or by the presence of smoke, the system immediately delivers an electronic signal directly to fire stations. Ringing bells tell the firefighters to get going.
Private companies offer alternative systems that can also be triggered by smoke detectors. However, those systems typically require a company representative to alert 911 dispatchers, who in turn alert the fire department.
That process can take several minutes longer than the Gamewell system, DeSantis said. And, in a city of row homes, seconds and minutes matter when it comes to fire, he said.
Even in 2013, DeSantis said, the fire department is frequently alerted through the Gamewell system to calls for fires, car accidents and medical emergencies.
In those cases, someone usually pulls one of the 83 street boxes.
Not everyone has a cellphone to call 911, DeSantis said.
"The system's over 100 years old, and it's still the best system out there," he said.
DeSantis pleaded with council members to reject the proposal. He suggested the city instead develop a 10-year plan to make needed repairs.
City officials have estimated the Gamewell system and its nearly 100 miles of wiring need repairs worth an estimated $730,000.
However, as council President Carol Hill-Evans noted, the Gamewell system generates nearly $85,000 per year in fees from businesses hooked into the system.
Hill-Evans, Michael Helfrich and Renee Nelson voted against the proposal.
After the meeting, Hill-Evans said she'd like to explore the possibility of diverting that revenue to the repair costs, perhaps during the next decade.
"There's still decisions to be made," she said.
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