Preparedness

Cleburne County, Ala., Commissioners Talk About Siren Replacement

The sirens were originally installed some 20 years ago by the federal government as part of the chemical stockpile emergency preparedness program.

by Bill Wilson, The Anniston Star, Ala. / August 7, 2018

(TNS) - Replacement or repair of the aging sirens which alert residents to hazardous weather was part of the discussion agenda during a work session of the Cleburne County, Ala., Commission Monday night.

Cleburne County Emergency Manager Crystal Cavender told the commissioners that out of 22 sirens which blanket the county, five are not working and need repairs. That just leaves 17 sirens to cover 561 square miles which make up Cleburne County.

Cavender said that some counties have phased out the sirens altogether.

“They are becoming obsolete and they are old — it’s just old technology — we have better means of communications,” Cavender said.

The sirens were originally installed some 20 years ago by the federal government as part of the chemical stockpile emergency preparedness program according to Cavender.

Cavender prefers weather alert radios and web based alerts to alert the public to severe storms.

Commissioner Laura Cobb said many areas in the county have no cell service, including the Coleman Lake campground.

“If there’s a storm coming and there’s people camping there nobody’s going to know it,” she said.

After the meeting Cavender said that even if the sirens are working, their effect is limited.

“Are you going to be outside in the middle of the night?” Cavender said.

“I would encourage our residents don’t just depend on those weather sirens for outdoor use,” Cavender said.

The commissioners discussed getting a siren from Calhoun County to replace the Coleman Lake siren or having a logging company pay for it as well as just purchasing radios for residents.

Heflin City Clerk Shane Smith approached the commission to find out whether the county might be willing to charge a flat monthly fee for city inmates that the county takes into the jail.Currently the city pays the county $20 every time a Heflin inmate is processed at the county jail.

Smith wants to pay a flat fee of $2,500 per month or $30,000 per year. Smith said that he is working on the city’s budget and this would make that task easier.

“It allows me a little more flexibility to know what I’m paying each month,” Smith said.

Smith said that some inmates only stay at the jail for 15 minutes yet the city is still charged $20 for them.

The commission was lukewarm to Smith’s proposal.

Kim Brown, chief financial administrator for Cleburne County, said that the city’s tab for prisoners is already at $32,000 for this fiscal year which ends next month.

Smith said a flat rate could be paid for this year and the matter would be reconsidered the next fiscal year, when the amount could go up.

Cleburne County Sheriff Dennis Green told commissioners it’s hard to know how many people will be jailed for any given month.

The commissioners discussed how the county is liable for all of the prisoners, prompting Brown to say that the county pays $17,000 per year on liability insurance which adds to the overall cost of running the jail.

Commissioner Jake Durham agreed with the county’s liability responsibility.

“That’s the biggest thing right there. We’re essentially taking care of someone else’s kid,” Durham said.

The commissioners instructed Brown to gather up statistics and the matter will be taken up at next week’s regular meeting.

?Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.

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