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April 21, 2013

Council scheduled to take vote on warning sirens

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council is expected to take a final vote Tuesday as to whether to spend money to keep the current system of emergency warning sirens operational.

Based on the results of an online poll about the sirens, local residents seem to be split on whether to pay a lot more to expand the system or to eliminate it altogether.

The Council intends to conduct a second public hearing before taking a vote on the issue during Tuesday’s regular session, starting at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 2821 Washington Street. A work session is also set for 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The siren at the Greenville SportsPark recently had new equipment installed, at a cost of $14,500, in order to keep it operational. Although the work has been described as an “upgrade”, the project actually replaced aging and obsolete components with updated equipment in order to keep the siren functional.

The Council has been asked whether it wanted to do the same for the remaining four units under the city’s control, or decide to go in another direction.

The outdoor sirens are designed to create an audible sound to alert people who are most likely outside of life threatening events.

Problems have been noted with the sirens for the past year, following a tornado outbreak across North Texas, which included three twisters in Hunt County. Some local residents said they could not hear the sirens, while some of the units were later found to be inoperable.

Five sirens were installed in 2002 at Graham Park, Middleton Park, Wright Park, the Greenville SportsPark, and Oak Creek Park and were placed into service to warn people that were outside at the park to take shelter.

Two additional sirens at the Greenville L-3 plant are part of the overall system, but are owned and maintained by the defense contractor.

In January, Fire Chief Doug Caison told the Council expanding the system citywide, which Caison said would mean a dozen sirens, would cost a minimum of $400,000, but that it would not guarantee residents could hear them from inside their homes.

An online poll on the subject is included on the City of Greenville Facebook page and on the city’s web site at www.ci.greenville.tx.us/OutdoorSirenPoll.

The poll asks whether the city should upgrade the current system, which is needed to keep it operating at all, at a cost of $70,000; eliminate the system altogether and encourage the use of the CodeRED warning system; expand the existing system at a cost far greater than $70,000; or none of the above, in which case citizens are asked to provide their own suggestion.

As of Friday evening, 16 votes had been submitted for both eliminating the system and expanding the system. Seven votes had been case for upgrading the system and keeping it functional, at the estimated cost of $70,000.

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