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Webster Parish Police Jury mulls siren grant

by Minden Press-Herald

The Webster Parish Police Jury is discussing offering a grant program for municipalities in the parish to apply for storm warning siren systems.

Although nothing is set in stone, juror Daniel Thomas believes this is an avenue for the entire parish to have these systems. In the intergovernmental committee meeting Tuesday, Thomas brought the idea to the jury for their input, and gave handouts to jurors of the warning system purchased by the Town of Sarepta.

“We talked about it the other day in a committee meeting,” Thomas said. “What I wanted to do is get the police jury to come up with a storm warning grant program, and the main thing is, if possible, I wanted to give up to $25,000 a year of the parish police jury budget to come up with this program.”

If it were set up, it would be a one-time grant in which municipalities can apply to purchase a storm warning system.

This is not a budgeted item in this fiscal year; however, if the police jury votes to implement such a program, it would be in the 2016 budget and would come out of the landfill royalty fund.

The budget will be discussed in December’s meeting, officials say. The fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

According to figures provided by the police jury, the royalty fund balance is currently $500,492. A line item budget for emergency services is provided for in this fund.

The police jury gets a certain percentage from royalties from the landfill. Although the police jury owns the landfill, it is leased by Republic Waste Services. According to figures from the contract, 590 tons of waste is free to in-parish residents per month, $6 per ton after. Parish attorney Patrick Jackson says this is a subsidy of in-parish waste included as a royalty.

The police jury gets five percent on all gross revenue over $250,000, not including exploration and production waste, and 17.5 percent on exploration and production waste.
The Town of Sarepta just purchased their storm warning system a couple of months ago, Mayor Peggy Adkins said.

“The police jury gave us $5,000 a couple of years ago, and we put it back for a siren warning system,” she said. “After I became mayor, the board voted to go ahead and purchase the siren, and it came in about a couple of months ago. All in all, it cost us about $20,000.”
She says they are glad to have it, and fortunately, they haven’t had to use it yet.

“It’s really neat,” she said. “It’s right here at the back of our building. It will reach a three-mile radius.”

The siren is tested every Wednesday at 4 p.m. In the event of a storm or the need for the siren, it is supposed to sound for a full three minutes, she said.

“We’re hoping we’re never going to have to use it, but if it saves one life, it was worth it,” she added.

Thomas says he just wanted to offer a way for municipalities to purchase a storm warning system, and wants to be a good steward to the taxpayers; it’s also personal for him.

“I knew some people real well that got killed in the tornado in Benton, and some of them were outside and didn’t have a clue. Some of them were watching a movie and didn’t have a clue. One of them was still trying to get his family inside of a closet, and he couldn’t get in.

So he was trying to get into another closet when the tornado hit the house. I’ve always thought, ‘What is a life worth?’ and one of these sirens is a very, very small token. But when you really, really need it, is it that much money?

“I’d like for every community to have storm warning systems by the time we stop this grant process,” he continued.

In the draft grant application, only these municipalities are eligible to receive the grant: Minden, Sibley, Doyline, Dubberly, Heflin, Dixie Inn, Springhill, Cullen, Cotton Valley and Shongaloo.

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