Acting city manager Gary Lawson told the Board of Mayor and aldermen Tuesday he was hesitant to recommend one of the three bidders because they're all from out of state, and none of them visited Mount Carmel and looked over the town or the topography before submitting their bid.
Over the next month Lawson and Public Safety Director Jeff Jackson will research the three companies, as well as contact city officials in Gatlinburg who recently installed an emergency siren system almost identical to the one Mount Carmel recently purchased.
Early Warning Systems Inc. of Cheyenne, Wy. submitted Mount Carmel a bid of $34,468, which was Lawson's first choice because it was lowest.
West Shores Services of Allendale, Mich. bid $43,500, and had it been lower would have been Lawson's first choice because that company took down Mount Carmel's sirens from the California military base where they were originally located. But, West Shores had the second highest bid.
American Signal Corporation of Milwaukee, Wis. bid $55,000, but the overall total was reduced to $42,967 because it want to trade Mount Carmel's sirens and install its own siren system, which would be only two sirens for the entire city.
Mount Carmel north and south boundaries are both valley bottoms, and the town is divided by ridges in the middle. Jackson said he doesn't believe two sirens will cover the entire town.
"It amazes me that these companies are willing to bid on something they haven't even seen," Lawson told the BMA. "It does worry me about what they're saying they'll do for us. I'm not sure they're familiar with the area enough. Most people I talk to, they're not familiar with these companies. We're not sure how reliable they are."
When Lawson was mayor in 2012, he proposed installing an emergency siren warning system in the wake of severe storms that rocked the region and included tornadoes in Greene County and Glade Spring, Va.
That plan was shelved after Lawson was defeated in the next mayoral election, but he and Mayor Chris Jones revived the plan earlier this year.
Although Hawkins County residents receive emergency warnings through Hawkins County Central Dispatch, the concern was that fewer people have landlines these days, and not everybody is near a phone when an emergency occurs.
The sirens would hopefully be a fail-safe warning system to alert everyone in the city regardless of whether they are outside working, driving in their car or even if they don't have a phone.
In April, the BMA agreed to purchase six used sirens that had previously served a military installation in California at a cost of $13,700 including shipping.
Jackson noted that Gatlinburg has the same obstacles that Mount Carmel has with regards to topography an area, and their new sirens are almost identical to the sirens Mount Carmel purchased used from a California military base.
"I don't feel comfortable recommending any of the three with the knowledge that I have," Jackson added.
The BMA voted unanimously Tuesday to delay action on the bids until the December meeting so that Lawson and/or Jackson can contact the three bidders and Gatlinburg.
The goal is to have the sirens up in time for the spring storm season.