MOUNT CARMEL — City leaders are hoping former military emergency sirens purchased earlier this year can be installed before storm season hits next spring.
On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to authorize City Manager Gary Lawson to advertise for installation bids, but the funds for that installation haven't yet been earmarked.
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.
The company that took down the sirens from their previous location gave the city an estimate of about $43,000 to install all six.
Mayor Chris Jones noted that a study conducted years ago when he was fire chief indicated that four sirens would cover the city. The new sirens are supposed to be heard 2.5 miles in every direction and have the capability of making different tones to indicate different types of emergencies, as well as having voice capabilities.
Lawson said the four sites he believes would be ideal are on Carters Valley Road at a sewer substation; at the City Park; on a public right of way near Hammond Estates; and on Kingsport's Allandale water tower.
But the bid specifications would include a study to determine how many sirens are needed to cover the entire city and where they need to be located. The company that provided the installation cost estimate has a topography map and is expected to make recommendations.
The installation cost was originally intended to be lumped into an $85,000 budget amendment that is also going toward purchasing fire department equipment needed to maintain the city’s ISO rating of 4. Public Safety Director Jeff Jackson told the board that the entire $85,000 will be needed for that equipment, and the siren installation should come from another allocation.
Alderman Carl Wolfe said he was hesitant to spend money on the siren installation at this time. He said if the project is approved he wants to be assured that the entire town is covered by the sirens.
Alderman Margaret Christian said she believes this system is worth the expense.
"We have taken an oath of office to protect and serve our citizens," Christian said. "We had all that (wild fires) last year in Gatlinburg, we have a lot of woods and brush here, and I would cringe at the thought of someone losing their life because of us not having a siren out there. We've already got them, and they don't need to be laying around over there."