Spalding County buys two emergency alert sirens

SHEILA MARSHALL :::

Spalding County Commissioners on Monday authorized County Manager William Wilson to execute an agreement that will result in the installation of two emergency warning sirens.

According to Wilson, the grant award includes a federal share of $37,664 and a state share of $5,022. Spalding County has an in-kind match of $7,533.

The total of $50,219 covers the costs of the sirens, accessories, installation and delivery of the sirens and consoles and training.

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program resulted from the presidential major disaster declaration issued in the wake of the April 28, 2011, tornado that swept through portions of Spalding County.

Wilson said the placement of the two emergency warning sirens – one at the Blalock Fire Station and the second at the Norton Fire Station – was based upon the 2011 storm trajectory.

“We’re putting them in two areas where the county owns the property, so we don’t have to lease anything, and that saves even more money,” said Commissioner Chipper Gardner.

Officials said the original request included a third siren for the Sunnyside area, which would have been located at the municipal complex, but it was denied.

“I’m excited that we were awarded the grant to get the two sirens,” Gardner said. “I wish we could have gotten the third siren for Sunnyside, but at least we were approved for these two.”

These sirens will provide an additional level of notification that will work in conjunction with the county’s use of the FirstCall Alert System.

The FirstCall system, which allows residents to request notifications to be sent to multiple landline and cell phone numbers, by e-mail and text messaging, has been criticized by some who say warning sirens are a better means of emergency alert.

Gardner understands residents desire for the warning sirens, but explained that it would be cost prohibitive.

“It would cost several million dollars to cover Spalding County with sirens, and the only way we would have to pay for that would be property taxes,” he said. “Are property owners willing to pay that much more in taxes to pay for the sirens? I’m sure there are some who would say yes, they’d be willing to pay more, but the majority would probably say to sign up for the FirstCall system. Everybody in Spalding County needs to sign up for FirstCall because these are probably the only two sirens we’re going to be getting.”

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