Updating Storm Sirens Expected To Save Money In Pawhuska

Wednesday, April 23rd 2014, 10:49 pm
By: Tess Maune

The cost to keep one Green Country town safe during storm season is on the rise. Pawhuska is paying thousands each year to keep its storm warnings sounding in the spring.

But the city has found a solution to save money and keep its citizens safe; a simple solution, new storm sirens. City leaders say they're long overdue because the current system is decades old.

The sirens were silent Wednesday, but the wind was blowing, and a storm was brewing out west.

City Manager Paul McAlexander, said, "You never know, we got storms predicted tonight, that could be slight to severe in our areas."

McAlexander, said the uncertainty of severe weather is just about as questionable as the reliability of the town's storm sirens.

"You don't know if they're gonna operate today or tomorrow. It's a continued maintenance issue, all the time," he said.

It hasn't failed yet, but the current system is all of 50 years old. Pawhuska's 13 sirens operate off of a landline. Before a warning is activated, McAlexander said, someone at the police department must first relay the information to the telephone company.

And that antiquated system is costing the city a pretty penny. McAlexander said, the monthly bill has jumped from $400 to $1,200 in just two years.

"It's an expense that we can sure change on our budget and save some money," McAlexander said.

Before the savings can come, they city must first do a little spending. In the next few weeks, five new, modern sirens will be installed in Pawhuska, with a price tag of just about $63,000. A cost that the town's mayor said will pay for itself in savings in only a few years.

"We've had some real good opportunities comes here, this is gonna be one to help people feel a little more comfortable here," Mayor Roger Taylor said.

And, while the number of sirens is being slashed by more than half, McAlexander said the new network will have a larger coverage area, reaching as many or more folks than the current system.

But their best feature, he said, they'll be reliable.

"We know that the sirens should not fail," McAlexander said.

The new siren system will be battery powered and backed up by a generator, so a little extra peace of mind, in the case the town's electricity is knocked out before a storm.

The plan is to have all five sirens up and ready by the end of May.