New Britain to spend $100,000 to get word out on hot spot fee - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New Britain to spend $100,000 to get word out on 911 hot spot fee

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Many New Britain residents told Eyewitness News that they are upset with the city for paying a public relations firm $100,000 to better explain a recently adopted ordinance.

A recently passed ordinance that will charge property owners "hot spot fees" for the properties that generate the highest volume of police and fire calls in the city.

A letter was sent from the management company for the Farmington Hills apartment complex to all residents several months ago.

"Dear tenant, New Britain's mayor wants to raise your rent and punish you by charging you $500 for calling 911," the letter read.

"They acted completely irresponsibly by telling really blunt lies to the public," said New Britain Mayor Tim O'Brien.

But, many residents still don't know what the truth is. 

"He'll charge you, so I don't call 911," said resident Jose Rivera.

Melvin Torres agreed and said residents told her they are worried about paying a fee for calling for help.

"Everybody's scared. If you want to call the cops, you can't because of the $500 for yourself. You can't pay for that," Torres said. "If you want to try and help somebody, you can't."

And that's why the mayor said he felt he had to set the record straight. According to the proposed hot spot ordinance, buildings will be fined for making more than nine non-emergency calls a year and right now, no monetary fee has been established.

"We have to be able to clean up the mess that they created and get the facts to the public," O'Brien said.

So, New Britain announced it was hiring PR firm Global Strategy Group to get out the message, at a cost of $100,000. Ads will go out via television, radio, print and online in both English and Spanish. 

"It's important to get the message to the public and make sure it's being delivered by all different channels," O'Brien said. "It's not enough just to issue a press release."

Opponents still blame City Hall.

"I think if the ordinance was clear, nobody would be guilty of misinformation spreading," said Eric Polinsky-Carrabetta of New Britain. "The fact that you have an ordinance on the books that confuses residents, whether it's due to the landlords or the administration is probably not a good ordinance to begin with."

Management at Farmington Hills apartment complex have since sent out a retraction letter, but some residents said they didn't get the message. And the landlords are still taking the fight to the city with a lawsuit.

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