Costly siren update approved

FLINT TWP. — Maintenance and upgrading of the township’s 11 emergency warning sirens, at a cost of $72,700, has been approved by the township board.

In his request for funding, township fire chief John Ringwelski said that $62,000 was needed to replace rusted siren battery boxes and the remaining $10,700 to upgrade controlling equipment that would enable individual monitoring and operation of each siren.

He explained that a process is underway to re-band all 800 MHZ band radio waves, the public safety frequency, to shield it from outside interference. The move to narrow banding is to comply with a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directive.

Genesee County Emergency Management applied for a grant to redo all sirens within the county, Ringwelski said. The township’s share of costs, after the grant, is $62,000. Without the grant, it would cost $20,000 more if the township waits to do it later, he said.

The township would also risk not being able to activate its sirens if they are not reconfigured to be compatible with the rest of the county system.

Some board members questioned the high cost to repair the sirens.

Trustee George Menoutes asked how that cost was determined.

Ringwelski said the cost is divided among participating municipalities and varies according the number of sirens they have. Flint Township’s assessment is based on the cost of repair times 11.

“We have 11 (sirens) in the township that are literally falling apart,” he said, adding that some municipalities have fewer sirens or newer sirens that need less upgrading.

The siren batteries kick in when there is a power outage. Sirens are tested on the first Saturday of the month during non-winter months and also sounded during extreme weather.

Trustee Frank Kasle asked if the township still needed all 11 sirens.

Ringwelski said he believed he number was based on a past engineering study. Asked for his input, Police Chief George Sippert said the engineering study took elevation into account to determine the location of sirens. Without another study being done, he said he would not want to be responsible for deciding where sirens could be eliminated.

Supervisor Karyn Miller said the cost of the sirens was not budgeted for 2012 and would require a budget amendment. She noted that waiting until the 2013 budget is approved ran the risk of losing the available grant money to help with the costs.

The board voted unanimously to pay for the sirens. Treasurer Sandra Wright was absent.

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