Dexter Township residents will soon benefit from an outdoor warning system to alert them of pending natural or man-made disasters.
The township board of trustees voted 6-1 on Tuesday to approve a resolution to initiate an outdoor warning system project, which includes the purchase of 16 omni-directional electronic sirens that will be placed in strategic areas around the township.
The board authorized the purchase of the sirens from Front Line Plus, Inc., at a cost of $370,940.
"Based on all the feedback we received from residents in the aftermath of the March 15 tornado, purchasing the warning system is a wise investment," township supervisor Pat Kelly said.
Kelly said currently the township has one warning siren in the area of Portage Lake. The Front Line system will be directly connected to the Washtenaw County Sheriff Emergency Management Division. Each siren will also be able to broadcast announcements from township officials from the township hall.
Dominic Treglia, chairman of the township's Public Safety Advisory Commitee, said in the wake of the on March 15, an outdoor warning system is vital to protect the area's 6,500 residents, as well as thousands of recreational visitors.
"Ninety-nine percent of the residents I talked to after the torando told me that they had no warning, and that just sticks in my head," he said. "People might say that we're not going to get hit by a tornado like that again, but we can't take that chance."
During a public hearing, Kelly read a letter from resident Dale Lesser expressing opposition to the sirens.
"I'm not too crazy about the idea of erecting 16 towers and sirens in our township for storm warning. We have radar on the TV and computer. We can see the black clouds, lightning and thunder. The sirens would either go off with every black cloud or would wait for the National Weather Service to see rotation, which they said did not happen in the that took part of our shed. Perhaps people near the lakes would like a siren, but for me, I'd like to stay in a tower and speaker-free rural area."
Trustee Steve Feinman disagreed, stating, "The fact is when the electricity goes out, the TV, radios and computers don't work, so the only way to be warned is by public system."
In response to questions on how the system will be funded, Kelly said the township still has $157,879 left from funds it earmarked for tornado cleanup that have not been used. Additional funding could come from the township's fund balance as well as donations from private residents.
Township Clerk Harley Rider said he and his wife Vita feel the warning system will benefit future generations and donated $1,000 toward the installation.
"We feel blessed that we have had a good life here and forunate that we have not suffered from natural disasters that have befallen others in the community," Rider said. "We strongly believe that a community-wide emergency warning system would benefit the residents of, and visitors to, Dexter Township.
"We realize that this is a significant expenditure for the township and asking for additional money from taxpayers may not be appropriate in this economy. Therefore we would like to do our part to help the community that is our home."
Maintenance and repair of the sirens will be conducted by the township through a warranty plan with Front Line Plus, at a cost of roughly $200 per siren per year. The locations of the sirens have not been determined.
The sirens would complement 70 additional sirens throughout the county that are already operated and maintained by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services.
"To include Dexter Township is a huge shot in the arm for the county at a time where our budget does not allow us to continue offering two new sirens a year," Mark Breckinridge, director of emergency services for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, said.
In other action:
- The township board approved contracting with McKenna Associates to retain Patrick Sloan, director of Planning and Zoning, one day a week at a cost of $800 a day, until a replacement is hired. Sloan r earlier this month.