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After five years, Mount Carmel again considering emergency siren system

Jeff Bobo • Updated Mar 6, 2017 at 11:32 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Former Mount Carmel mayor Gary Lawson proposed installing an emergency siren warning system in 2012 in the wake of severe storms that rocked the region and included tornadoes in Greene County and Glade Spring, Va.

Although the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the time included $40,000 in the 2012-13 budget for a siren, the system was never purchased mainly due to division on the board as to whether the cost was worth the benefit.

As town administrator, Lawson presented the siren proposal to the BMA again Tuesday.

Lawson had suggested a warning system in 2012 after seeing a news report about a man in Ohio who heard a siren, immediately carried his granddaughter into the basement, and made it there a second before the house was destroyed.

“To me, it’s worth the cost if it saves one life,” Lawson said.

One reason some board members opposed the siren years ago was that Hawkins County Central Dispatch had recently implemented a 911 emergency call back warning system. Supporters noted, however, that not everyone has a phone, nor will everyone be near their phone when a storm hits.

The system would probably require two sirens. A study completed in 2012 determined that one siren would be needed at the City Park to cover the Holston Valley side of town, and the other would be needed at the Ruritan to cover the Carters Valley portion.

On Tuesday, the BMA unanimously approved Alderman Margaret Christian’s motion to insert $35,000 in the 2017-18 budget for a siren system.

Lawson was also authorized to solicit cost estimates and information from siren companies to be considered by the BMA as it works on the budget.

Mayor Chris Jones told the Times-News Friday he believes the sirens are needed now more than ever.

“It’s important when we have severe weather that our citizens are prepared,” Jones said. “We can get the word out on TV and radio, but how will they know they need to listen to the TV or radio unless there’s a way of notifying them? Weather is so strange lately. It’s changing. This is essential. We need a way of warning all of our citizens, and not just the ones who happen to be near their phone, watching TV or listening to the radio.”

In other business Tuesday, the BMA:

— Agreed to donate the town police department’s moving target system to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office to be utilized at the Phipps Bend firing range so that all law enforcement officers in the county can benefit from it.

— Agreed to appoint Susie Cline to the Public Utility Board.

— Agreed to appoint Pam Whooten, Lynn Mahan and Mike Fletcher to the BMA’s Business Development Committee.

— Agreed to apply for a $500,000 Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) HOME Investment Partnership Program grant to benefit local homeowners whose homes are dilapidated and in need of repairs.

— Presented a plaque of appreciation to the Mount Carmel Library Committee for its efforts in making improvements to the library.                                                 

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