Saline City Council approved the location of three emergency warning sirens at Monday’s meeting.
The sirens, activated during severe weather, hazardous spills and national security incidents, will be located at North Ann Arbor Street and Woodland Drive; on Michigan Avenue, west of Maple Road; and on Austin Drive, near Michigan Avenue. Existing sirens are located at Woodland Drive and Maple Road and at Henne Field.
The new plan includes two changes to the plan proposed July 9. City council members because one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods on the northwest side was not within the one-mile range of a warning siren.
By moving the siren along Woodland Drive from Maple Road to Ann Arbor Street, the city traded coverage in the industrial park for more residential coverage in the northwest sector.
“I support (the plan) because it does reduce the amount of (coverage) overlap and it provides coverage for residential areas that were not covered before,” said council member David Rhoads. “It does leave some uncovered area (in the northeast) but that is area is mostly industrial and I am less concerned about that.”
Council member Brian Marl agreed.
“I thank the county for its willingness to look seriously at places other than what was proposed two weeks ago. I think the (plan) sufficiently covers all of Northview subdivision, which is one of Saline’s most densely populated areas,” Marl said.
Mayor Gretchen Driskell asked Washtenaw County Emergency Planning Coordinator Ben Pinette if it was possible to locate the Woodland Drive siren between Ann Arbor Street and Maple Road. Pinette said it was not possible because the siren must be located near a transformer.
The new plan also moved a siren from Henry Street and Old Creek Drive to East Michigan Avenue. The move was made at the request of someone who lives near Old Creek and Henry Street
“I received a call from a resident who lives near Old Creek and Henry and he was concerned, so I think it is great to move the siren to a more commercial and industrial area,” said Marl.
The sirens will be activated by Washtenaw County.
Some council members had expressed some concern about the city losing its ability to activate sirens. The Saline Police Department dispatchers operate the existing sirens.
Rhoads suggested the city maintain the siren at Henne Field and give police the ability to activate it when necessary.
Marl, who wanted to maintain local control, supported Rhoads’ suggestion.
“I think it’s a wonderful suggestion and it would allow is to continue to have our weekly sound off at noon. I was going to drop the suggestion of dual control. I think it’s somewhat important but I’m not willing to fight over it,” Marl said.
At the previous meeting Pinette said it would cost about $2,400-$3,000 to give create dual-activation access for the three sirens.
Pinette said he did not foresee a problem with the proposal to keep the Henne Field siren and said he would discuss the idea with county administration.
Driskell asked what residents outside of the siren coverage area do for warnings. Pinette said that the sirens primary purpose is to notify people who are outdoors, so that they can go in and check the radio for Emergency Alert System news broadcast at 89.1 FM, 102.9 FM, 107.1FM, 1050 AM and 1290 AM.
The city can continue to do weekly sirens on Saturdays if it chooses. All Washtenaw County operated sirens are be tested at noon on the first Saturday of every month from March through September. If severe weather is possible on the afternoon of a test, it may be delayed until the following month.
The county worked with former Police Chief Paul Bunten on a grant to upgrade the sirens. The new sirens are being funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, although the city will pay about $1,500 annually in maintenance costs.
Sirens are activated when significant severe weather has been detected (a tornado or a severe thunderstorm with damaging winds confirmed to be in excess of 70 MPH), when a hazardous materials accident occurs that requires immediate protective action by the public, or for other critical events such homeland security emergencies according to the county.