Report: Two-thirds of county weather sirens need repairs
by Jennifer Cohron
Dec 17, 2013 | 923 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Only 14 of 45 outdoor warning sirens were confirmed to be working in a report that the new head of the local Emergency Management Agency presented to the Walker County Commission on Monday.

Coordinator Regina Myers recently enlisted the help of Bobby Jackson, owner of Jackson Communication Service, to check all of the county’s sirens.

Jackson said he discovered multiple problems.

“They were never properly installed. The majority of them are not grounded, and that’s where a lot of your issues come up with static and lightning,” Jackson said.

Two sirens, one on Burrows Crossing Road and another in the Dilworth community, need to be replaced as a result of being struck by lightning.

“Most of them have no grounding at all, and you’ve basically got a 50-foot lightning rod sitting there,” Jackson said.

Roughly half of the sirens are battery operated, and the other half run off of electricity.

Myers said the commission could choose to convert all the sirens to AC-powered and eliminate the maintenance cost of purchasing batteries every three to five years.

In addition to grounding work and minor repairs, many of the sirens need new batteries and chargers, according to the report.

Myers said the cost of replacing the two sirens that have been struck by lightening would be approximately $15,000 each.

“We actually have a grant open that was approved by FEMA to replace the one at Dilworth Church. It is a 75/25 split, so we would only have to cover the 25 percent cost of that one,” Myers said.

The expense to the county of replacing two sirens and making the necessary repairs to the remaining 43 was estimated to be more than $66,000.

Commissioner Keith Davis said some money is available in the EMA budget but not the full amount.

Myers said no grants are available for the project at this time.

“Those come under hazard mitigation. Unfortunately, the only time we get money for hazard mitigation projects is if we have a presidentially declared disaster in Alabama,” she said.

When questioned about a timeframe for getting the county’s outdoor warning system fully operational, Jackson said sirens that don’t require parts could be addressed in two weeks.

The others could not be repaired until the parts are received from his supplier, which he said could take between two days and six weeks.

Jackson hesitated to commit to a March deadline advocated by several of the commissioners.

“It’s hard to correct six to eight years of neglect in six to eight weeks. We’ll get it as fast as we can, but it’s been let go for a long time. It’s hard to correct that quickly,” Jackson said.

There is also a possibility that the county will have to accept bids for the project.

Pending word from state officials regarding legalities, commissioners voted to open the project up for bid if necessary.

If the project is categorized as public works and falls under the $50,000 threshold, the same resolution allowed the county to proceed with repairs on 43 sirens and bid out the replacement of the other two.

In other action, the commission

•passed resolutions regarding two resurfacing projects that the Alabama Department of Transportation is overseeing in the county.

The roadways being resurfaced are Industrial Boulevard from the intersection of Highway 69 West to the intersection of Highway 78 and Highway 195 from just north of Fall City Road to the Winston County line.

•approved bid extensions into 2014 for six companies providing services to the county: Advanced Asphalt Products, Vulcan Asphalt, Wade Sand and Gravel, Viking Office Supply, Hagar Oil Company and Ozark Striping Company.

•tabled a decision on two qualified bidders for pipe.

Engineer Mike Short said bids were sent out for metal and plastic pipe. Harvey Culvert Company was the lowest bidder for metal and J&G Culverts was the lowest bidder for plastic.

His recommendation was to award the bid to both companies.

“I would like to be able to choose the line item that is the cheapest. If we want plastic pipe that’s cheaper from J&G, that’s what we’ll order. If we need a metal pipe that’s cheaper from Harvey, that’s what we’ll order,” Short said.

Short asked that the county get the approval of the Alabama Department of Examiners before moving forward with the agreement.

•approved a resolution and participation agreement for the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Liability Self-Insurance Fund.

•heard a report of flooding problems at the EMA building on Highway 69.

“There’s a water tank in the ground that is leaking when it rains. The rain is coming through the rusted tank, traveling down the pipes and coming into the basement,” said Tommy Davis of Walker County EMA.

District Two Commissioner Dan Wright said the county has the equipment to remove the tank.

•received a first-place trophy from Chamber of Commerce of Walker County president Linda Lewis for the county’s float in this year’s Christmas parade.

The entry was selected as the best in the government division.