Blaring complaint addressed by officials

By Thomas Garcia PNT Staff Writer

Concerns and questions were raised about the location of one of four new emergency siren during a Portales City Council meeting.

The last item of business discussed during Tuesday’s meeting was the siren that was installed near the intersection of North Avenue O and Spruce Street.

Both council members Jake Lopez and Ron Jackson mentioned concerns and complaints made by Charlie Sorgen in regards to the siren’s location.

Sorgen said that his concerns are the noise and the fact that no one consulted him or surrounding residents when they installed the siren.
“I feel that blatant disregard was used when installing that siren,” Sorgen said.

“That siren could have been placed on the 40 acres that the city owns just south of the siren but instead it is at my front door.”

All the sirens are running on the Xcel Energy’s power grid, Wattenbarger said.

That siren was originally going to placed further east but the only transformer near that location belonged to Roosevelt County Electric Co-op.

“We did not want to have the sirens powered by two separate power companies,” Wattenbarger said. “We did the best we could cost-wise installing these sirens and to move it now would cost $10,000.”

“That siren is 500 decibels, A jet airplane on takeoff only generates 120-140 decibels,” Sorgen said. “Human hearing and hearing of livestock can be damaged at 80 decibels.”

Lopez said that Sorgen is concerned about the sirens spooking his miniature horses during tests.

“I went out to that siren today at noon when it was tested,” Lopez said Wednesday “It is loud but it would have to be to warn the citizens about a tornado.”

Portales City Manager Debi Lee has also been out to the siren in question when it was fired.

“The horses and cows under and across the street from the siren did not flinch when the sirens were sounded,” Lee said. “It could be because I am just excited about having the new sirens to warn Portales’ residents but I didn’t think the siren was that loud.”

The sirens are currently in a stage of testing to ensure that they are ready to go, Wattenbarger said.

“There are several tones that the siren can be sounded on,” Wattenbarger said. “The testing tone is a low growl and will not be disruptive.”

Once the system is ready to go the sirens will be tested once a month with full sound, said Wattenbarger. The total time for all tests in a year should be only 30 minutes.

The threat of severe weather became apparent to Portales’ residents in March of 2007 when a tornado touched down east of Portales, causing severe damage to a local dairy.

Last year when the tornado struck the police department received several calls inquiring why the sirens did not sound, Wattenbarger said.

“We assured the callers that every step was taken to monitor the storm and if it had posed a threat to the city the sirens would have sounded,” Wattenbarger said. “Even after the explanation several of the callers were still upset.”

The new sirens will allow us to notify a larger area of impending severe weather threats, Wattenbarger said.

“Our goal is to become a Storm Ready (a National Weather Service certification) community,” Wattenbarger said. “Along with a mass notification system these new sirens will aid in alerting Portales residents when there is imminent danger.”