The approved bid of $43,500 was from West Shores Services, which recently installed the same siren warning system for Gatlinburg. The $43,500 is for all six sirens, although the company will assess the town to determine if it can get by with fewer, which would reduce the cost by $6,200 per siren.
City Manager Mike Housewright noted that he spoke to officials in Gatlinburg about the installation of that town’s sirens.
“West Shore is almost the exclusive installer for the brand of sirens that we have, Federal Signal,” Housewight told the BMA. “They’re highly regarded and professional. They will make recommendations. They will come in and look at the community, look at the topography of the community and they will make recommendations on where to place those.”
The only no vote came from Vice Mayor Carl Wolfe, who said he wasn’t opposed to the sirens, but he didn’t agree with signing an installation contract until the city knows how much it will cost to maintain them.
“What kind of contract are we going to sign if these things tear up, and how much is it going to cost us?” Wolfe asked. “I’d like to see some more figures, and we don’t have to do this tonight. I think we ought to give (Housewright) another week, if he needs to, and if he wants to go ahead and discuss it with them, that’s fine.”
Wolfe also asked that a siren policy be created and more public awareness efforts be undertaken before the sirens are installed.
Housewright said West Shores will make recommendations about operations and policy, but it will be up to the town to approve those policies such as who makes the decision when and why to sound the siren.
He added, “West Shore is just about the exclusive installer for the manufacturer. They work mostly with them, and there’s significant reason to believe that any kind of maintenance, any kind of replacement, our cost through West Shore will be less then our cost through another third party installer.”
Alderman Margaret Christian noted that the town received the sirens in June and they need to be installed.
“We have absolutely worn this out,” she said. “This is a serious thing. We need to have these sirens. We have went ahead and ordered these sirens. As my dad said, we’ve rode this horse to death. We need to move forward with this for the safety of our citizens.”
Although Hawkins County residents receive emergency warnings through Hawkins County Central Dispatch, the concern was that fewer people have landlines these days, and not everyone is near a phone when an emergency occurs.
Mount Carmel officials envision the sirens as a fail-safe warning system to alert everyone in the city regardless of whether they are outside working, driving or even if they don’t have a phone.
In April, the BMA agreed to purchase six used sirens that had served a military installation in California at a cost of $13,700 including shipping.
Mayor Chris Jones noted that the Holston Army Ammunition Plant has expressed interest in incorporating sirens that would serve the south side of the city into its system.
“Through this system, you will be able to speak through a mike, and voice can be projected over the siren system and give instructions," Jones said. “If it’s like the emergency we had when all the power went out and we had snow on the ground, and we had officers going around door-to-door, we were advising people to put white sheets out (if they needed help), all these type messages can go across this system.”