Manila Council considers weather alert systems

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Manila City Council members worked through a lengthy agenda Monday night at the November meeting.

The first item on the list was storm detectors. Mayor Clifford Veach and council members have discussed previously adding sirens or weather radios to help warn citizens during tornado watches and warnings. Veach introduced David Lendennie, Mississippi County coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.

"We have had several discussions about sirens," Mayor Veach said. "I asked Mr. Lendennie to address the council on the subject."

"Sirens in the county are for outside warning," Lendennie said. "They are meant to be heard by people outside homes and buildings. They are not intended to be heard inside every building or house within the area. You can sometimes hear them inside homes but you can't always count on it. Some of the new homes are so well insulated that is almost impossible for those people to hear an outdoor siren."

He went on to say one of the problems with outside sirens is high-maintenance.

"They stick up and seem to be like a lightening rod," Lendennie said. "They get struck by lightening or have other mechanical problems. I have seen repair bills run from $150 to $2,000 per siren."

Lendennie said the outside sirens are good but residents don't want to completely depend on it to warn them. Also, the sirens have only one function.

Lendennie talked about the NOAA weather radios.

"The old radios covered about 17 counties and anytime there was a storm coming through Northeast Arkansas, the radio would wake you up about 15 times a night," Lendennie said. "The new radios don't do that. They are battery back-up. If the electricity goes out it still works. There is a siren built into the radio to warn people if a watch or warning has been issued for the area programmed into the radio."

He mentioned other features of the radio including Amber Alerts for missing children and Homeland Security alerts."

He said in the short future, county coordinators for emergency management will be able to give citizens specific information needed for safety.

"For example, if a trailer truck loaded with hazardous materials was coming through Manila on Highway 18 and overturned, I will be able to key in a message for the NOAA radios and activate the alarm to let people know to evacuate or stay out of the area," Lendennie said.

The radios can be taken on trips. They work anywhere, any time.

Lendennie also informed the council of new solar powered sirens coming out at a cost from $13,000 to $15,000 each. He gave Mayor Veach a contact number to acquire more information on the sirens.

Veach said the council might consider adding a siren and trying to subsidize residents in the purchase of the in-home radios.

Lendennie said the radios cost approximately $40 each.

"I always suggest to people the radios would make great Christmas or birthday gifts," Lendennie said. "We should think of the weather radio as a smoke alarm for safety."

Another suggestion Lendennie made to get the radios in the homes was for the city to purchase in bulk for each residence and charge it to water bills.

The council will review their options and discuss it at the December meeting.

Veach and council members reviewed the budget comparison through Oct. 31.

"It continues to look favorable in most areas," Veach said. "Some areas will need to be amended in December. The General Budget did well and the Sanitation Department is on schedule."

Veach went on to say the water project is completed and the city will be reimbursed for some of the expenses. The airport saw an increase in land rent at $197,000 with another $12,000 to $15,000 additional rent that came in November and the hangar rent is good. The swimming pool fund and fire pension fund is growing.

"There is nothing out of line," Veach said.

Veach informed the council that the street paving project is completed.

"We wound up $86,000," Veach said. "We did a little more than we planned but we came out okay as far as estimates."

Veach went on to say that he had talked to Joe Barnett, district engineer, about paving Highway 18-B.

"We have been on the list since 2003," Veach said. "He talked like there is a good chance of paving next year. He did not make any promises but hopefully in the near future it will be done."

Council members voted unanimously to accept the bid of $94,606 from River City Hydraulics for a new garbage truck.

Again, unanimously the council agreed to accept the bid from Melton Brothers in Jonesboro on a John Deere mower and tractor for the airport in the amount of $24,302.14 (tractor) and $12, 637.20 (mower).

Mayor Veach said a lot of work has been done on the annexation project since the last meeting.

"I think we have the commitments, Veach said.

City Attorney Wayne Wagner said they have heard from one out of state land owner and another resident told us if everyone else signed to come back

"We should be ready to have the hearing in 30 days and annexation by Jan.1 if nothing goes wrong." Wagner said.

Council agreed to leave the jail fees to the county jail for municipal prisoners at $15 a day.

"We signed a year's contract last year for $15 a day. Now they want us to agree to a contract allowing them to charge us $30 a day," Veach said. "I talked to Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, and he advised us not to sign an agreement right now."

The council voted unanimously to leave the jail fees at $15.

In other business:

*Veach announced the transfer station repairs have been completed.

*Council voted unanimously to leave the millage where it is at 4.0 -- 3.6 for maintenance and operation and 0.4 for firemen's pension.

*The council agreed to give full time employees $300 and part-time employees $150 for the end-of-year bonus.

*Mayor Veach said he would like the council to review holidays for 2006 at the December meeting. He said the personnel handbook lists only state holidays.

"You (the council) need to decide what holidays will be given and I'll abide by them," Veach said.

*Council accepted the 2006 proposed budget.

*Veach informed the council he had appointed Judge Shannon Langston to the city court judge position. Judge Childers resigned due to his obligations in Little Rock.

*Mayor Veach announced the health benefit costs will be increasing by $33.50 per month effective Jan. 1.

*Mayor said the 2004 audit exit conference with the state auditor. He said there were four or five things to correct.

"We have responded," Mayor Veach said. "All in all it was a good audit."

*Veach said he and Councilman Larry Davis had met with the Airport Master Plan group.

"We viewed the final plans," Veach said. "Whiz and I are happy with what we saw. The 20 year plan is broken down in three stages. It looked reasonable what to expect over the next 20 years."

Veach said the cost was $77,000 for the master plan but the city will be reimbursed for the full amount.

*Veach reminded council members the Municipal League meeting will be held in January.

*The Christmas parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 3. Veach said it sounds like Manila will have another nice parade this year.

*Veach said the water house building had been painted. The doors need replaced and it should cost less than $2,000 for the five doors.

*The council voted to purchase a 1988 chipper truck in the amount of $3,900. The bed and box of the old truck will be used on the newer truck.

*Resident Earl Jackson asked the council if any more consideration had been made to adding sewer to the houses on Costner Road.

"I've lived in Manila for 13 years," Jackson said. "Is there anything in the plans to get sewer to those houses."

Councilman Leroy Douglas asked how many houses are involved and said he thought it is something the council should look at.

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