Situation over sirens still unsure

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another year, and still no tornado sirens.

     That was Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron’s lament at last week’s city board meeting.

     In June, Brookhaven received a grant covering most the cost of buying and installing five weather alert sirens in the city.

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     However, all bids to provide and install the sirens were rejected in October by aldermen at the recommendation of area Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey.

     Another tornado season is thus bearing down on the city, with no sirens in sight, Cameron pointed out Tuesday night.

     When asked about the sirens Monday, Galey said the bidding process will have to start over.

     Before he’ll start taking bids again, though, Galey is currently investigating the viability of electronic alert sirens. He hopes a decision can be reached on electronic sirens and new bids collected fairly soon.

     “Hopefully between now and the first of the year, we are going to rebid,” Galey said.

     The electronic sirens caused the October rejection of the initial bids. Several companies turned in bids for electronic sirens, but Galey had only asked for bids on traditional mechanical sirens.

     Since the submitted bids didn’t meet posted specifications, they had to be rejected.

     Now, Galey is trying to determine whether the electronic sirens should be allowed or not.

     “If we decide the electronic would be as good as the mechanical, then we will change the bid specifications,” Galey said.

     Galey said he remains unsure, though, whether he’ll allow bids for the electronic sirens. The grant, awarded through FEMA, doesn’t restrict the kind of sirens the city may use.

     Once the bid process is complete, Galey hopes work can begin immediately.

     “It shouldn’t take too long,” Galey said. “The longest would be getting the equipment ready.”

     The only other Mississippi city with electronic alert sirens that Galey is aware of is Monticello, in neighboring Lawrence County.

     Monticello has one traditional siren that’s been there for years and three electronic sirens, said Monticello Mayor Dave Nichols.

     “We’ve been very pleased,” said Nichols.

     Unlike traditional sirens, which use a motor to physically produce the sound of the siren, the electronic sirens use a speaker and amplifier system to play a prerecorded tone, Nichols explained.

     Besides the alert tone, the sirens also give city leaders the option to broadcast recorded or live messages.

     “My voice could be on them,” Nichols said.

     The sirens are battery-operated and can run when the power is out.

     The electronic sirens have been in Monticello about five or six years, said Nichols.

     In that time, only one siren has experienced problems.

     “We had one hit by lightning and we had to replace it,” Nichols said.

     The range of the sirens seems to extend a little bit outside Monticello.

     “We test them once a month, and we’ll get calls from outside the city asking what’s going on,” Nichols said.

     To ensure maximum coverage in the Brookhaven, city officials had proposed placing a sixth siren at the Linbrook Business park and splitting the cost with Lincoln County.

     County supervisors took proposal under advisement but haven’t taken any action on the idea.

     The city’s FEMA grant will provide 95 percent of the funds, leaving the city a 5 percent match. The grant was approved for project costs up to $117,600.

     In June, Galey told aldermen he hoped bidding would be complete by the end of July or August.

     At the time, Galey told aldermen city leaders had discussed tornado sirens since at least the mid-1980s.