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Putnam County receives grant for early warning sirens

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD - Five early warning sirens will soon be up and running in Putnam County to notify the public of emergency situations.

Emergency Services Director Frank Chapman told Putnam County commissioners Tuesday morning he had received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"I didn't get everything I asked for, but we did get five early warning sirens for the county," Chapman said.

The sirens will be placed at the Poca fire department, the park behind the Eleanor fire department, the courthouse complex in Winfield, the Teays Valley fire department and Hurricane City Hall.

The locations were selected after a study of where the sound would best propagate to wide areas and near places where crowds of people might gather, such as the county fairgrounds in Eleanor.

Chapman said he hopes to add sirens in Buffalo and Bancroft in the future.

In addition to the traditional siren sound, the notification systems can project voice messages giving instructions.

"Back during the storm, we could have said, 'Food and water are available at this location' for people who don't have power," Chapman said, referring to last summer's derecho that caused widespread power outages that lasted days.

Chapman said the effort is coordinated with Kanawha County's Office of Emergency Management and that each county will be able to control both counties' siren systems in case of emergency. The sirens are powered by generators.

The sirens should be up and operational by the end of May. He said his office will launch a public relations campaign to educate the public once the sirens are functional.

In other emergency news, county residents could see flood insurance rates drop by up to 10 percent.

Planning Director Sandy Mellert asked commissioners to sign a letter of intent to participate in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System.

The rating system is an incentive program to encourage good flood plain management, according to FEMA.gov.

Mellert told commissioners that the county already meets or exceeds most of the program's flood plain management requirements, so it won't cost the county any money or time to participate.

Once FEMA evaluates the county, if it meets all the requirements, residents who purchase flood insurance will see rates drop by 5 or 10 percent, depending on which classification the county gets.

"It's all upside," Mellert said.

Commissioners spent a chunk of Tuesday's meeting holding a public hearing regarding a street closure request just outside Hurricane. A resident has petitioned to close small portions of Poplar and Elm streets that are currently not paved road to build either an addition to his home or an additional structure on the property.

Three neighbors attended the hearing, and two objected to the closure.

The commission moved to put off making a decision until commissioners could visit the road. It is slated to come up for a vote at the May 28 meeting.

Finally, two county-funded agencies are seeking employees.

Commissioner Andy Skidmore reported that the Putnam County Development Authority board received 45 applications for its top job and had narrowed the pool to four or five applicants.

Commissioner Joe Haynes reported that the health department is seeking a new sanitarian after Joel McKinney took over as director following former director Jackie Fleshman's resignation earlier this year.

The Putnam County Commission meets at 9 a.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the County Courthouse in Winfield. All meetings are open to the public. 


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