Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 22, 2013

Would you pay extra?


— In November 2007, then-mayor-elect Greg Goodnight was considering spending priorities for his administration’s first year. Citywide tornado sirens didn’t make the list.

The Kokomo Common Council passed on first reading an appropriation of $144,000 for sirens at each of the city’s fire stations. Goodnight said he wanted the city to pursue a warning system in which emergency management would call home lines and cellphones with weather alerts.

“If we can save that money and still have a better system, let’s take our time on that,” Goodnight said.

The council tabled the siren proposal later that month.

But five-and-a-half years later, despite offering Kokomo households below-cost radios that broadcast warnings and watches directly from the National Weather Service, some still believe the Goodnight administration must invest in relics of the Cold War.

And we expect to hear from them again, after the massive tornado that killed scores of children and adults in Moore, Okla., Monday.

“You can go out and ask the public whether they would rather have radios or sirens,” Councilman Mike Wyant, D-1st, told his colleagues at a caucus meeting two years ago. “They want sirens, not radios.”

Television stations with powerful radar can text weather updates to cellphones. Kokomo residents can get information about severe weather 24 hours a day.

And though no study exists affirming the effectiveness of tornado sirens, though Cedar Park, Texas — an Austin suburb of 80,000 — removed its sirens as after-the-fact technology, some residents still want to invest in expensive, 30-foot pacifiers.

City controller Randy Morris told councilmen the best estimate for equipping Kokomo with sirens was about $300,000, not including the cost of building towers and purchasing property easements — and that was back in 2011.

Considering annexation increased the city’s geographic size by 40 percent, the price for these Information Age security blankets now could be as high as $500,000.

If city residents want tornado sirens constructed throughout Kokomo, and the issue comes before the city council once again, we recommend the few like-minded councilmen propose financing such a project by way of the state’s Barrett Law. The council can issue a special assessment upon residents outside of property taxes.

If people truly want tornado sirens, they’ll gladly pay a one-time fee for them.