Neosho is getting an electronic voice storm siren at Morse Park, as well as federally-mandated updates to all of its current sirens.

Neosho is getting an electronic voice storm siren at Morse Park, as well as federally-mandated updates to all of its current sirens.

The Neosho City Council approved a bid Tuesday from Blue Valley Public Safety in the amount of $108,795.14 to purchase both the new siren, which can double as a normal storm siren and also a digital voice siren, and the equipment needed to update the nine existing storm sirens that haven't already been upgraded. Of this total cost figure, $50,000 was budgeted and the balance will come from the general revenue fund. The new digital siren will cost $23,323.02. The rest is for the updates.

The Federal Communications Commission is requiring all non-federal emergency agencies switch their radio systems to narrowband frequencies by the end of this year. Neosho's storm sirens operate by radio signals, which is why they must also be updated to comply with the coming mandate. The updated sirens will also be able to be monitored remotely from an office computer for electrical failures, intrusions to the boxes and time date stamps of siren activation, as well as allow silent tests, among other things, Neosho Fire Chief Mike Eads explained to the council Tuesday.

“It just helps us keep track of the sirens,” Eads said.

City Manager Troy Royer said that though the costs for the siren upgrades are over budget, waiting until the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, would have only allowed a few months to go through the bid process again and then make all the upgrades before the FCC deadline. He also said that the bids could be higher by that time as well.

“We just felt like it was better to be proactive and move on this now, and be done with it and be in compliance with these requirements,” Royer said.

Meanwhile, the new electronic voice storm siren at Morse Park — which doesn’t currently have any siren there at all — will have the option of blaring out a pre-recorded or even live voice message, as well as a normal emergency siren.

“Any time there is an outside event at Morse Park — baseball games, soccer games, or just people walking the track — we could send out a voice message,” Eads said. “And not just for tornado warnings, but we could send a message out for lightning, flood issues, hail, or any kind of weather coming into the area and give people a heads up and make them hopefully head for safety.”

Messages could be sent out remotely from both Neosho Fire Station 1 and Newton County Central Dispatch, as well as from the siren pole itself.

“Emergency service personnel could go over the pole, open up the box, stick the microphone onto it and tell everybody what’s going on — if there’s a lost child, traffic issues, or just anything public safety-wise,” Eads said.
Royer said that the added expense of the one, and only, electronic voice siren was simply deemed a public safety issue, since it does allow for specific warnings or messages.

Councilman Charles Collinsworth noted that the city must sometimes go over budget on things, but that this was one time he didn’t necessarily mind as much.

“There is nothing more noble, or better, to go over budget on than this right here,” Collinsworth said.
Also on Tuesday, the council heard an update from Royer regarding a flooding-related issue brought forward at the last council meeting by Clifton Kerr, 625 Archer Ct.

Kerr had first addressed the city council in May 2011 about storm water running off the street into his yard and into his basement because of a lack of curbing, which he said he has complained about since moving there in 1993. Though the city put in some railroad ties after Kerr addressed the council a year ago, he said at last month’s meeting that the storm water has now been diverted into his garage. When he addressed the council before, Kerr said that his retaining wall had been damaged after the last heavy rain and was leaning at a dangerous angle. Kerr wants the city to replace his retaining wall, as he said he has been complaining about the lack of curbing for 19 years.

Royer reported to the council Tuesday that he does not believe the water flow was actually what caused the retaining wall to lean, but the natural pressure of the ground behind the block retaining wall, which he said didn’t appear to be reinforced.  

At any rate, Royer noted that he isn’t sure a curb would totally fix the issue anyway, as Kerr’s house sits well below the street level and is also perpendicular to the inclining street that the water is coming down during heavy rain events. He pointed out Kerr’s driveway also inclines toward his garage, which doesn’t help. Royer also said that there is no other curbing in that neighborhood.

Still, he did provide two cost estimates, one for a curb ($3,052) and one for a new block retaining wall ($3,447.59), both of which include labor and equipment costs, as well as materials.

“I don’t personally believe a curb would really solve the water issues,” Royer told the council. “I think it would do the same that the railroad ties had done. It may divert it a little.”

But diverting the storm water may also cause problems for neighboring houses, noted councilman Tom Workman. He also said that because of where Kerr’s home is located, facing the bottom of an incline and several feet below grade level, there is probably going to be an issue no matter what during periods of excessive rainfall.

“I just think we need to be really careful about building anything on private property,” Workman said, referring to the retaining wall. “And I think we need to be very careful about diverting water that can affect other people’s property. Nothing is curbed in that area, it’s not a curbed road, it’s not like that is the only section of road that doesn’t have a curb.”

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hart noted that it could set a precedent as well.

“Mr. Kerr is a gentleman, he’s always been very respectful and is a nice man, but as a municipality we cannot be on the hook if somebody decides to build in a low-water area and proper construction isn’t done on a retaining wall, with all due respect to Mr. Kerr,” said Councilman Charles Collinsworth. “Is there anything infrastructural-wise we can do to ease this problem? It sounds like we might goof it up for other residents. From where I’m sitting, I don’t see a solution that isn’t overstepping some boundaries and opening us up to more headaches and hassles. It is unfortunate, but I don’t know if it is our job to bail out this situation.”

Neosho Public Works Director Mike Hightower said that there some “little things” that still might be done to help alleviate the problem, and the council encouraged him to try them.

In other business, the council:
• Approved, on final reading, amending sections 710.010, 710.020 and 710.030 of city code and repealing section 710.110, revising the code in respect to the process to initiate water and sewer service. Proposed changes include authorizing a non-refundable service application fee, limiting the requirement for making a deposit to only those customers with a history of non-payment, and permitting application for service over the telephone.

• Denied a request from Medicalodge of Neosho to place a sign on city property, on the southeast corner of State Highway 59 and Route D. This would have replaced a sign that was damaged by weather earlier this year. Council members said that unless otherwise provided, private signs on city property should be removed as they are brought to the city’s attention.

• Approved a bid from GreensPro, Inc., of Marshfield, Mo., in the amount of $8,236.50 for fertilizer for the Neosho Golf Course.

• Approved a bid from US Alarm and Electrical, of Neosho, in the amount of $16 per month/$38.50 per hour for any labor for security monitoring and repair services.

• Approved a bid from HD Supply Waterworks, of Olathe, Kan., in the total amount of $54,175 for water meters to be used in the water system improvement project. $95,000 is budgeted this fiscal year for meter replacement.

• Tabled consideration of bid for an asphalt roller and trailer. The council directed Public Works Director Mike Hightower to research the long-term cost savings of purchasing a new roller versus a used one.

• Approved, 3-1, Councilman David Ruth dissenting and Mayor Richard Davidson absent, amending the electric service agreement with Empire District Electric to replace one streetlight at the intersection of Lincoln and Coler Street, increasing the city’s monthly payment on that light by $2.20.

• Approved a Relay for Life fireworks display on June 8.

• Appointed Larry Newton to the senior citizen committee.

• Announced vacancies that exist on the board of adjustments-zoning, board of appeals, economic development sales tax committee, golf course committee and the park and recreation board. If interested in serving on any of these advisory boards, please call City Clerk Nora Houdyshell at 451-8050.