Supervisors opt to change course on siren project strategy

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY — Marshall County Emergency Management Director Kim Elder addresses the board of supervisors about the tornado siren project during a special session held on Friday morning.

After reviewing the matter with emergency management coordinator Kim Elder during a special session on Friday morning, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors officially voted to move forward with the second of three options provided for a project that will eventually install 21 new tornado sirens and three digital repeaters across the county.

Under the original strategy, which was referred to as option one during the meeting, the county would have undertaken the entirety of the project — estimated at $733,933.09 — with the nine cities receiving new sirens responsible for $270,000 before grants and the county responsible for approximately $463,931.98 before grants. Because Marshall County is first in line for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) dollars, it would likely receive $429,000 from the federal government and $73,000 in state funding, leaving the cities responsible for $40,500 ($4,500 each) and the county responsible for $191,433.09.

The second option, which the board ultimately approved by a unanimous vote, would keep the overall price tag the same but split the last $161,933.09 for a separate project to place the remaining sirens in unincorporated areas. According to Elder’s figures, this option would reduce the county’s obligation to $263,750, and if the FEMA and state funding applications are successful, the county would only be on the hook for about $45,300 on a project worth about $302,000.

The drawback, Elder explained, is that the second option could require additional digital repeaters because it would not fund all of the sirens in the unincorporated areas. Of the 21 total sirens the plan calls for, she estimated the second option would cover 14 or 15 of them and leave the rest to be completed and installed at a later date.

“We will see some changes out in the unincorporated areas. We won’t get as many sirens, and the cities will still get theirs. But we still have to have our backbone. We have to have our digipeaters. We have to have our controllers. We have to have our software, all of those things,” Elder said. “All of those come first on the county side. The backbone comes first, and then the sirens would come… We will be short $161,000 worth of sirens.”

Sirens are estimated to cost about $30,000 each. A third option, which would have involved 90 percent federal and 10 percent state funding with no local funding, was only briefly discussed during the meeting. Another funding source Elder has mentioned as a possibility is American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, and despite some concerns from the supervisors and County Auditor/Recorder Nan Benson, Elder assured them it was above board with the state.

Marshall County 911 Communications Director Rhonda Braudis opined that it might make the most sense to make the “backbone” a separate aspect of the project. Supervisor Bill Patten also urged Elder to move quickly as he believed grant funding would be “drying up” soon.

“I think we need to strike while the iron is hot, get our stuff in and be first in line,” Board Chairman Dave Thompson said.

A motion from Supervisor Steve Salasek to pursue the second option received unanimous approval.


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com


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