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May 5, 2013

New Albany council to weigh funding for paving, tornado sirens

New sirens would boost coverage downtown

NEW ALBANY — Measures to approve funding for paving and additional tornado sirens will be before the New Albany City Council on Monday.

After months of discussion, the council is slated to vote on footing $2 million in paving this year with Economic Development Income Tax funds.

Initially, the council had considered bonding as much as $5 million of paving, but the majority of the body felt borrowing money for resurfacing wasn’t a good idea.

Councilman John Gonder said during a work session this week that the city is already incurring more debt since a bond was approved for an aquatic center and other quality-of-life projects that are projected to cost up to $18 million. Through EDIT, the council has the means to fund $2 million in paving this year and in 2014 without having to pay interest, he continued.

“If we don’t have enough discipline to do that, then shame on us,” Gonder said.

The appropriation measure states that $2 million will be spent on paving and sidewalks. However Councilman Dan Coffey — who supported bonding a paving campaign this year — said he’s skeptical that there will be enough remaining funds to spend on sidewalk installation and repair after resurfacing efforts are covered.

“You’re not going to have the money to do the sidewalks and to do [the paving] and do it right,” he said.

It will take three ballots to approve the funding, and the appropriation is set for two readings Monday.

The final vote on the paving funding will likely be taken May 16.

MORE SIRENS PROPOSED

The council is also scheduled to take two votes on appropriating $45,783 of riverboat funds to purchase and install two tornado sirens. The sirens would be added at Bicknell Park and the Spring Street fire station.

Councilman Greg Phipps is the sponsor of the measure, and said the additional sirens would provide a better warning system for downtown.

Floyd County has funded some sirens in the past, and others were purchased through grant funds, Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Herthel said Friday.

In conjunction with the initial ballots on the appropriation, the council is scheduled to vote on a resolution Monday that asks the county to contribute toward the siren costs. In a draft letter set to be sent after Monday’s vote, Council President Pat McLaughlin requests the county maintain the new sirens along with the sirens already in place.

“While we are willing to incur the costs, we are hoping that the county will see its mutual interest in promoting the implementation and use of sirens and safety measures such as this,” McLaughlin stated in the letter.

Several council members have said they doubt the county will pay toward the expense, but that the city should at least ask.

There are 16 tornado sirens located in Floyd County, according to Herthel, which includes one that was purchased by Indiana University Southeast. He said the first sirens were installed around 2000 in Floyd County, and that they have a sound radius of about two miles.

Though Floyd County is one of the smallest counties in the state based on land area, Herthel said it would be difficult and expensive to install sirens to provide coverage throughout the entire county. The two new sirens would provide a pretty wide blanket of coverage in the city, but there are areas in the county such as Floyds Knobs that are out of earshot of the advance warning systems, he continued.

As he wrote in a letter to the council, Herthel is a big proponent of other forms of severe weather notification.

“We need to get the word out about weather radios,” he said.

According to Herthel, the sirens are typically set off in unison through a switch at the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.

“Our county is so small, if you set off one siren, you might as well set them all off,” he said.



*******************

SO YOU KNOW

• The New Albany City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 6, in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

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