By BJ FOX
Special to the Log Cabin
GREENBRIER — City Council members have been wrestling with an early warning system for their residents for a few months now and still made no decision.
Since the two city sirens are old and one near the fire station on Highway 65 will cost about $27,000.00 to repair, officials have been seeking alternate ways to warn citizens of impending weather emergencies. As far back as August, Mayor Melton Cotton brought a sample of a radio/alarm clock/weather radio that could be purchased for a nominal fee. Further discussion of that avenue was tabled in September because Cotton was away at a meeting on the metro-transit system.
Jill Mason, representing Code Red, presented the council with a new alert option for Greenbrier. Code Red is already in use by Sherwood, Bryant and Cabot. It is under consideration in Little Rock. This is a high-speed notification system directly to a resident’s phone or phones to warn them of such things as water boil orders, nuclear hazards, terrorist threats, planned utility outages, street closures and severe weather warnings such as flooding and tornadoes.
"The beauty of this system is rapid and early alerts by phone, instead of alarms," said Mason.
It can go to every resident, employee, business, utility company, and emergency personnel by phones within a matter of minutes—all handled from a central computer system. The system can make up to 3,000 calls per minute. Mason showed how quickly notification of recent flooding in Atlanta was launched with adequate personnel to handle that situation. This system has even been used in locating a missing child or elderly person by notifying the community with their description and details.
Sign-up for the system is done online and has a better notification average than sirens that often cannot be heard. Council members had many questions.
Shelia Maxwell, director of the Office of Emergency Management, attended the presentation and said, "We are hoping to take this Code Red system countywide. There is a Public Safety Meeting on (Tuesday) for us where we hope to push this. If multiple cities sign up for this, it could conceivably cost the City of Greenbrier only about $2,000 per year."
Councilman David Browning said the system might be a cost-effective option.
"Consider the cost of fixing the broken siren in town and half the people can’t hear it anyway, this sounds good," he commented.
When asked about how soon it could be up and running, realistic expectations were three days to two weeks, depending on how quickly the data is entered. When asked about those who have no computers to sign up online, Mason said that problem has usually been easily resolved by neighbors or friends who help the others sign up. No decision was made on buying into this program.
In other business, the Municipal Building roof leaks badly and is 14 years old. Major discussion ensued as to repairing an old roof again or just replacing it. All the light fixtures in the municipal courtroom were affected with condensation in them, and the original contractor who put on the roof is out of business. A new metal roof was estimated at around $45,000. Councilman Ty Kelso moved to replace the roof with rubberized material that meets LED standards for a cost of $17,673, awarded to Covington Roofing Co. of Conway. This was approved unanimously.
Cal Burgess of 30 Garrett Road asked to divide his present land into four plots so his children could each build a home on a part of his land that has been in his family for 32 years. He had already pleaded with the Planning Commission who told him to approach the Council asking for a variance from their ordinances. The ordinance states that no piece of land can be subdivided into more than two parcels within a five-year timeframe. That would only give Burgess three lots. Various compromises were discussed as City Attorney Bill Velek explained the options; but finally the vote was unanimous not to allow the split Burgess was proposing. One member of the Burgess family in attendance left in tears.
The City Council meets the first Monday of each month. The Planning Commission meets the third Monday of each month. Meetings are at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building located on Wilson Farm Road.