As we enter into the season for tornadoes and inclement weather, The City of Fort Wayne, Allen County and The Waynedale Business Chamber have reached an agreement to install an emergency siren within the next 3 months. Allen County Commissioners voted today and approved an Interlocal Collaboration Agreement between the City and the County. However, the final step in the process includes Mayor Tom Henry to sign the agreement, of which he has indicated that he will be doing. After his signing, the siren and siren pole will be ordered by Allen County Office Of Homeland security. Presumably, the purchase details and installation of the siren will be managed by County Homeland Director Bernard J. Beier, Jr.
In the interest of expediting the process, the overall cost of the siren and pole of $25,983 will first be funded by Allen County, which will then be subsidized by a $5,000 contribution from The Waynedale Business Chamber’s fundraising efforts. Significant benefactors of the Chamber’s fundraising efforts include The Waynedale Lions Club ($2500), GMI Insurance ($1,100), Glosson Food Equipment ($1,000), as well as smaller community donations to make up the remaining amount. Fundraising outreach came from Waynedale News staff members (and brothers) Alex Cornwell, Publisher and Jordan Cornwell, New Client Relations & Office Manager who donated many office hours to the cause. Half of the remaining $20,983 will then be reimbursed by the City Of Fort Wayne to the County.
The discussion about installing a siren began about a year ago when the Waynedale Business Chamber (WBC) noticed the absence of a Weather Warning System for the Waynedale Community. After further discussion, the WBC recognized this concern as an urgent priority and an absolute necessity in order to ensure the safety of the community.
“Part of our mission is ‘working to improve or maintain the environment and the overall well being of the community that we consider Waynedale.’ Noticing this type of concern, then making it our goal to correct it, is exactly why we formed the Chamber.” said Waynedale Business Chamber President, Jordan Cornwell.
On July 1st of last year the WBC began a petition in Waynedale to further prove that this is a common concern among residents, those who frequent, and those who work in Waynedale alike. The petitions were in paper form at many of the local businesses in the community as well as accessible online. By September 1st over 1700 petitions signatures were collected. Copies of all petition signatures were hand-delivered to the offices of 5 government officials, starting with Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. In the months that followed, City and County officials met many times to work on this issue.
On March 21st of this year, representatives from the Chamber, City and County which included Bernard Beier, Jr. Director – Allen County Office of Homeland Security; Eric Lahey, Fire Chief – City of Fort Wayne Fire Department; Jason Arp, 4th District Councilman – City of Fort Wayne; Loren Allison, Attorney & WBC Siren Committee Member; Jordan Cornwell, Waynedale News, WBC President & Siren Committee Chair; Alex Cornwell, Waynedale News & WBC Siren Committee Member; and Randy Raypole, Executive Director – Consolidated Communications Partnership met to discuss how they can come to an arrangement on the siren. During the meeting there were many options discussed but no solid agreements were set. Within days after the meeting, the WBC received a phone call from Councilman Jason Arp with an offer that “if the chamber can raise $5,000 to jump-start the process, the City of Fort Wayne and the Allen County Commissioners have indicated that they will likely split the remainder.” After deliberating, the WBC decided that they would commit to raising the money as long as it was included in the written agreement that the siren would be installed in a timely fashion.
It was indicated by both the County and the City that this agreement will not set a precedence for future installations of sirens, as there is not currently a set responsibility with either entity to be the one to install sirens. Since requests such as this are taken on a case-by-case basis and then hashed out by both entities, this project could have taken much longer than the estimated July 2017 install date or have been lost to a disagreement between the two parties. It was also indicated the Chamber’s influence began the conversation for this project and helped to join the two entities to expedite the process in the shared interest of safety for its residents.
This project raised the important question of whether the City or County holds responsibility for future siren installations and updates. An informal committee has since been devised between the two entities and they will be meeting to create a plan for public safety issues and possibly responsibility as old sirens and emergency awareness technology becomes outdated in which the sirens will then need to be replaced with digital versions and phone-based options.
Fortunately for the Community of Waynedale, decades after their preexisting Waynedale weather siren was decommissioned, Waynedale will again have a siren back in the same location at The Southwest Firehouse Station 1 (7001 Old Trail Road, Fort Wayne, IN 46809) in the ‘heart’ of Waynedale. This location was again chosen due to population density and proximity to schools, businesses, residences, and outdoor spaces such as parks. The siren will be noticeably audible within a one mile radius, but decibel levels vary beyond that radius due to rain, wind direction and other environmental factors.
This siren will serve as a warning system to those who may not have access to a nearby weather radio, have their cellphone on, or have a phone capable of relaying emergency warnings to seek shelter. According to statistics provided by Waynedale Township Trustee’s Office, in Wayne Township over 10% of the population is 65 years of age or older and over 37% of the overall population make less than $25,000. both of these demographic categories, reliable access to emergency alerts other than an audible siren, are unlikely.
According to Allen County Office Of Homeland Security, “In Allen County, the outdoor emergency warning sirens are only activated in the event of an actual emergency situation (tornado warning, hazardous material spill requiring shelter or evacuation, etc.). When you hear the outdoor emergency warning sirens, you should seek shelter immediately and tune into local media for additional information. The only exception to this policy is the monthly test of the siren system. We test the outdoor emergency warning sirens on the first Wednesday of every month at noon; weather permitting.”