With severe weather season rapidly approaching, Tallassee residents on the west side of the city and in the Carrville community should be aware that the severe weather sirens in those areas are not operating at this time.
"We have one weather siren that was hit by lightning, and we did an insurance claim on it," Mayor John Hammock said. "We have another siren that is not working that lightning did not hit it. It's just broken."
The broken siren is located in far west Tallassee near the intersection of AL Hwy 14 and AL Hwy 229. The siren that was hit by lightning and is being repaired is located near the intersection of AL Hwy 14 and Macedonia Road near the Funtastic Fort.
The estimated cost of replacement is for one siren $11,722.
"Some municipalities, when these sirens stop working, they are not replacing them," Mayor Hammock said. "I asked John Smith (city attorney) today would there be any liability if we didn't replace them. I think that this is a council decision, not a mayor's decision. I think we need to seek legal counsel from John Smith to see what direction we want to go in and the legislative branch of government, the city council, needs to make the decision."
Smith then explained that the city had no legal obligation to replace the warning siren, but if that decision is made, residents should be made aware of the discontinuation of the sirens.
"I don't know that the City is obligated to maintain weather sirens" he explained. "I'm not aware of any requirement under the law that says that. Now, with that said, since the City has weather warning sirens up, if it's the City's decision not to repair the sirens and to not replace them then I think the public should be made aware of that so that there shouldn't be any question about why didn't we have a siren go off or why didn't we hear the siren."
Councilmember Bill Godwin then weighed in on the subject.
"One of the things we have to factor in, that's a lot of money, but you're talking about saving lives," he said.
Godwin pointed out that a price tag cannot be put on a life, and said replacing the siren should be a primary focus.
"We should make it a priority because we are talking about saving lives here," he said. "There is no way to measure that. I would hate to know we didn't have a siren if something came through there and caused a lot of devastation and we didn't at least do what we could to try to have a warning," he continued.
Mayor Hammock agreed, stating that he had personally experienced tornadoes in the past.
"I feel we need to repair this. It's my personal opinion. Hopefully, we never have a situation where a tornado rips through our town but if it does, you know, a little bit of a warning might save some lives," he said.
Councilmember Bill Hall also expressed concern and suggested replacing the siren.
"I agree with councilman Godwin, you can't put a price tag on a life," he said.
There hasn't always been a weather warning siren at the west Tallassee location.
"In 2014, we received a grant for the shelters and the weather sirens. The location of that weather siren, where it is at now, there wasn't one. So, it's a grey area," Chief of the Tallassee Fire Department Eric Jones said.
At one time there were only three weather sirens in the city. One was located at the police station downtown, another at the A.C.T.S. building in Carrville, and a third on Varner Road near Walmart is west Tallassee.
"We upgraded," Jones said. "I think we have six now."
The siren that was struck by lightning in the Carrville area is already in the process of being repaired.
"We order the parts yesterday," Jones said.
Councilmember Fred Randal Huey pointed out that inclement weather could be in the area within the next seven days.
"There may be severe weather next week," he said.
Mayor Hammock agreed but said the sirens may not be operational by then.
"We are heading towards the tornado season," he said. "I don't know if these sirens will be repaired by next week."
Every councilmember present was in favor of replacing or repairing the west Tallassee weather warning siren.