By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Sometimes you hear it — sometimes you don’t.
That’s been the story of the Village of Colfax’s weather warning siren and the unreliable nature of it, which prompted the Colfax Village Board to approve buying a new siren for a little over $20,000 at the September 8 meeting.
“The siren is unreliable. We tested it and it worked. Then during the storm siren test on the first (Monday) of the month, the siren did not work,” said Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad.
“It is an unreliable system. Dunn County is using newer communications, and (the siren is older), so they are not communicating well,” he said.
The warning siren located on a pole at the former Colfax fire station and now the location of Cedar County’s Cooperative’s auto repair shop was installed 25 years ago.
“(The siren) is something the residents deserve. The one thing I hear from residents is ‘I didn’t hear the siren’ (when there is stormy weather). Or they don’t hear the noon whistle. Or they will hear it Monday, but not Tuesday or Wednesday,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee and chair of the public safety committee.
Another problem with the siren is that it is located on private property, and the controls for the siren are located inside of a business.
If something occurs requiring access to the siren controls after business hours, Knutson must call a Cedar Country Cooperative employee to open the building.
If access to the controls is required during the regular business day, Knutson must still ask someone to unlock the door where the siren controls are located.
The public safety committee met about the siren in August and recommended that the village board purchase a new siren.
Knutson provided three siren options to the village board.
The first option would be to replace the paging receiver and move the siren to the pole outside of the Cedar Country building at a cost of $5,800.
The problem with the first option is that the siren and the pole are still 25 years old, the siren has no battery backup, and it is still located on private property, Knutson said.
The second option would be to move the entire system, with a new pole and a new receiver, to the Colfax Rescue Squad building at a cost of $10,600.
The problem with the second option is that while the siren would have new pole and a new receiver, it is still an old siren and there are no guarantees that moving it would not damage the siren, and there are no guarantees how long it would work after being moved, Knutson said.
Moving the existing siren to the rescue squad building would cost half of the amount of a new siren, he noted.
The third option would involve purchasing a new battery backup siren and installing it at the rescue squad building at a cost of $19,650, Knutson said.
A new siren would cover the entire village at 70 decibels and the controls would be inside of a building owned by the village, he said.
Since the controls would be inside of building and not subject to weather, they would last longer, Knutson said.
And even when the rescue squad is out on a run, employees of the Colfax Police Department and the Colfax Department of Public Works would still have access to the controls, he said.
If the new siren was at the rescue squad building, the generator could be used to run the siren, if needed, Knutson said.
The generator would recharge the siren’s batteries in the event that the electricity was out and the warning siren needed to be activated, he explained.
The new siren would be six feet tall, four feet wide and three feet deep, Knutson said.
“It is a big siren. It will be on a 50-foot pole,” he said.
Village Trustee Annie Schieber wondered about installing the new pole when the ground is frozen.
Personnel from Federal Signal Corporation said a siren can be installed at almost any time, Knutson said.
From the time the order is submitted until the siren is built and assembled is between four and five weeks, he said, noting that the company builds the sirens as the orders are received.
Public safety committee members had asked Knutson to obtain quotes from other siren companies.
In the course of his research, Knutson said he discovered that the village would have to install two sirens from other manufacturers to get the coverage available from one Federal siren.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to buy a new warning siren and to pay for it out of the general fund.
“I think it’s money well spent,” said Village Trustee Beverly Schauer.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a training request for Don Logslett for confined space entry training on September 17 at the Wisconsin Rural Water Association Technology Center in Plover.
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Jaime Anne Chryst Haberlin for the period ending June 30, 2015.
• Approved allowing North Central Ambulance Sales and Service to use the rescue squad’s new Osage ambulance at the Greater NW EMS Conference in Minnesota if North Central needs a demonstration model. North Central did a favor for the village by selling a new demo model ambulance, which left the company without a demo model for the time being, Knutson noted. North Central would provide a loaner ambulance if they need the Osage as a demo, he said.
• Approved a second change order from Allen Johnson Construction in the amount of $700 to make the walk-in beer cooler at the Colfax Fairgrounds a free-standing structure without being tied in to the roof of the refreshment stand.
• Approved making the second payment for the refreshment stand to Allen Johnson Construction in the amount of $8,752.70.
• Approved a resolution to formally withdraw from the Wisconsin Public Employers’ Group Health Insurance.