Cape officials outline new program for warning sirens

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Cape Girardeau plans to seek private funding to install outdoor sirens to warn residents of approaching tornadoes, city officials said Monday.

The SEMO District Fair Association has agreed to donate more than $19,000 to pay for the purchase of the first siren and the control equipment needed for a citywide warning system. Any succeeding sirens would cost $15,000.

The first siren will be installed at Arena Park, said Mark Hasheider, assistant fire chief and the city's emergency management director. The siren should be in operation by March, which is typically the start of the tornado season in the Midwest, he said.

City officials announced the "Adopt-a-Siren" program at Monday night's council meeting.

The city initially hopes to install seven sirens in the vicinity of city parks. That way, park users such as those attending and participating in recreational sporting events could be warned of an approaching tornado, city officials said.

The city then would add more sirens throughout the city, ultimately amounting to perhaps as many as 18 sirens, Hasheider said. Each rotating siren could be heard over a 3.5-square-mile area.

Mayor Jay Knudtson and other city officials said the tornado that damaged Jackson in 2003 showed the need for Cape Girardeau to have a warning system. Currently, the only warning sirens in Cape Girardeau are on the Southeast Missouri State University campus. The school owns and operates those sirens.

Knudtson said past city councils had looked at installing warning sirens but rejected the idea as too costly.

Hasheider said this proposed system would depend on securing donations from civic clubs, businesses and other private groups.

The first siren alone would help alert a wide area, he said. With its central location, the first siren could be heard in three city parks, a large part of the Cape LaCroix walking trail and the Central Municipal Pool, Hasheider said in a memorandum to the city council.

Pete Poe of the fair board said the fair is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. He said installation of a sign at Arena Park, where the fair is held each year, would improve safety for fairgoers.

"This is the start of something big," Knudtson said. "We have to make sure we do it right."

In other action, the council approved a plan to construct a left-turn lane on Route K at the entrance to Notre Dame Regional High School.

City officials said it would improve safety along the state route. The project, estimated to cost more than $200,000, would be funded 50 percent by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The city and the parochial school would pay the other half of the cost.

City engineer Mark Lester said the project is expected to be constructed this summer and be completed before the start of school next fall.

Notre Dame principal Brother David Migliorino said the left-turn lane would reduce traffic congestion. "As the school is growing, you have more and more traffic," he said at his office prior to the meeting. The school has 480 students.

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