116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Linn County will accept 144 emergency sirens from the Duane Arnold Energy Center and pay $175,200 a year to maintain them.
Members of the county Emergency Management Commission approved the plan Tuesday night, despite a push from Linn County Supervisor Louis Zumbach for cities to pay for their share of the sirens’ cost rather than the county covering it all.
“I was hoping the funding would come from all the communities so everyone would have skin in the game,” said Zumbach, the only no vote.
Marion Fire Chief Deb Krebill, who served on the county’s siren committee, said it makes more sense for the county to maintain the sirens so all the residents of the county have adequate warning of future storms.
“If you separate this out to the communities, there is a chance the community won’t have the budget and won’t maintain the system,” Krebill said. “I really think it should be one entity taking care of them and that’s Emergency Management.”
NextEra Energy Resources, owner of the now-retired Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, said earlier this year it would donate 144 Whelen outdoor sirens and four control stations — together worth more than $1 million — to the Linn County Emergency Management Agency.
The sirens once were required in a 10-mile radius of the nuclear power plant, opened in 1974, to warn residents of a potential exposure to radioactive materials. But since the plant stopped production in August 2020, NextEra no longer needs the siren network.
The county will enter a contract with B & R Enterprises, of Cedar Rapids, to take over monthly testing, annual maintenance, upgrades and servicing of the sirens. It chose B & R over Price Electric, of Robins, which bid $567,360 plus additional unknown time and materials costs, and Frontline Warning Systems, of Monticello, Minn., which bid $233,350 plus additional time and material costs.
Of the 144 sirens, 109 are in Linn County and 36 in Benton County. The plan is for Linn County to accept ownership of all, but make the Benton County ones available to that county, Linn County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve O’Konek said last month.
The county plans to move some of the sirens from areas with overlapping coverage to areas, such as parks, without nearby siren coverage.
Some commission members, who include mayors of all Linn County cities, asked whether they would be required to join the Linn County siren network. O’Konek said they are not required to join the system, which has coordinated warnings.
In recent years the siren system was upgraded so sirens may be sounded in quadrants instead of the entire county. This way, the emergency management agency can target warnings to areas where severe weather is expected. The quadrant boundaries for the siren system are County Home Road dividing north and south and Highway 13 separating east and west.
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