Repaired weather siren in use

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 24, 2006

A siren that would warn about two-thirds of the town ofimpending dangerous weather conditions is now active, Monticelloofficials said Wednesday.

The board of aldermen has been working for months to repair andupgrade an aging weather siren and to determine policies on itsuse. The siren fell into disuse when it broke and had to bemanually turned on by police officers, who often had other dutiesto perform when weather conditions turned dangerous.

Repairs and upgrades to the siren were made a few weeks ago. Itcan now be turned on remotely at the Monticello Fire Department,where Chief Robert Patterson also serves as director of theLawrence County Civil Defense.

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Wednesday, the board approved a policy outlining when it wouldbe appropriate to sound the alarm, clarifying who is authorized toapprove its use and setting up a testing schedule.

“If a warning is issued involving Monticello, the emergencysiren will be sounded for 90 seconds,” said Mayor DavidNichols.

Tests of the system will be performed the first Monday of everymonth at noon regardless of the weather, he said.

“We want people to get used to hearing it at a certain time sothe testing won’t alarm them,” Nichols said.

The total cost of the repair and upgrade was approximately$3,000.

District Four Alderman Kevin Garrett and District Five AldermanCraig Davis brought new attention to the faulty alarm shortly afterthey took office. The aldermen took office in July and only onemonth later Hurricane Katrina swept through the town.

The crisis brought new emphasis on the lack of the town’sability to warn residents of impending danger, Garrett said.

The alarm only covers about two-thirds of the town, Davis said,and officials are working to secure additional alarms to provide awider coverage. However, the cost of an improved system – soclosely following hurricane recovery efforts – are too prohibitivefor more immediate action.

The board intends to purchase sirens, which cost approximately$13,000 to $15,000, at a rate of one a year until the coverage iscomplete.

Aldermen believe two sirens could possibly provide early warningfor the entire town. But four, one for each corner of the compass,would be best.