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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City siren grant approved

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin staff writer

Martinsville is going to be alarmed.

A $192,000 state grant that the city was awarded to buy a new emergency warning siren system has received final approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), city Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Phillips told Martinsville City Council on Tuesday.

The grant stipulates that the project must get done within two years.

Phillips said he would like for the planned network of eight sirens to be in place by spring. Meteorologists say tornadoes — the main threat which the sirens would warn against — are most likely to occur in springtime.

However, Phillips said he does not know if sirens can be installed that soon.

First, he said, the system must be designed, such as determining locations for sirens which will let them be heard across the entire city. Then a request for proposals from companies that sell sirens must be issued. Any proposals received would have to be evaluated afterward.

“The sooner we get ... the system online, the better,” said Councilman Mark Stroud.

Martinsville already has sirens atop the fire stations on West Church Street and Starling Avenue. But those two sirens, installed more than 50 years ago and originally used to summon volunteer firefighters into service, cannot be heard citywide, officials have said.

Modern technology, such as pagers, have caused sirens to no longer be needed to alert firefighters.

In recent years, the sirens have been sounded to alert the public when the National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for the Martinsville area.

Yet sirens could be used to warn people of any impending emergencies that threaten lives and property, according to Stroud.

In the World War II and Cuban Missile Crisis eras, many cities installed siren systems to warn residents if an air-raid or nuclear attack occurred.

“One of the core elements of local government,” Stroud emphasized, “is to protect its citizens.”

Also Tuesday, the council adopted on first reading an ordinance expanding the city’s Arts and Cultural Committee from five to 11 members.

Officials said the city has had a lot of requests from people wanting to serve on the committee. Increasing the number of seats will allow that to happen.

Adoption of the ordinance on second reading, which is all but certain and would finalize the expansion, will be considered by the council on Sept. 24.

The committee advises city officials on arts and culture matters. It was formed in 2009 when the city’s arts and cultural district — basically, the uptown business district and nearby areas — was established.

The 11-member panel is to be comprised of two citizen representatives, a city business owner and one representative from each of the following: The Martinsville Architectural Review Board, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., Piedmont Arts Association/Studio 107, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, Southern Virginia Artisan Center, TheatreWorks and the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society, according to a council document.

Committee members generally serve staggered four-year terms. However, some of the six new members will serve lesser initial terms to allow terms to be staggered in the future, the document shows.

The committee elects a chairman and vice chairman from among members. Susan McCulloch, the city’s community planner, serves as its secretary.

More coverage of Tuesday’s council meeting will be in the Martinsville Bulletin later this week.


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