By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Little Falls will have a new emergency siren on its west side sometime this spring.
The current siren, installed in the early 1980s, no longer works correctly. It is also installed on a 30-foot pole; the new one will be installed on a 55-foot pole, allowing the sound to travel further.
The new siren will be louder than the previous siren, and is expected to cover up to 6,000 square feet, depending on the wind direction and other variables, said Little Falls Fire Chief and City Emergency Manager Mike Nieman.
The city currently has five early weather warning sirens in locations throughout the city. The sirens are meant to warn residents who are outside that potentially dangerous weather is approaching, such as a tornado. In fact, many people calls the sirens “tornado sirens.”
“Residents should notice the difference,” said Nieman.
The early weather warning sirens are tested the first Wednesday of each month, at 1 p.m.
Nieman’s request to order the new siren was approved unanimously by the Little Falls City Council Monday night. Once it arrives in six to eight weeks, it will be installed and operational.
Nieman also requested the city set aside money each year, to eventually replace three other sirens that are about the same age. The plan is that as the new sirens are installed over a period of years, the coverage area will overlap, ensuring the city has complete weather warning coverage.
The new siren will cost about $20,000, which is accounted for in the city’s budget in its equipment fund.
Nieman also told the Council that in 2011, the Fire Department responded to 136 calls, compared with 95 in 2010. He said although the number of calls had increased, the dollar value in property loss was lower.
Currently, the Little Falls Fire Department has 34 firefighters, with two assistant chiefs, three captains, two safety officers and two training officers. Three firefighters are currently serving in Iraq.
Nieman said an average of 20 firefighters responded to 2011 incidents, with an average response time of 3.66 minutes within city limits.
In 2011, firefighters responded to 92 calls within the city of Little Falls; 16 in Little Falls Township; seven in Belle Prairie Township; two in Green Prairie Township; five in Ripley Township and three in the city of Fort Ripley.
Nieman told the Council the Fire Department received $4,840 from the Minnesota Board of Firefighters Training and Education, to be used for ongoing training. Last year, Nieman said the firefighters put in 207 documented training hours. “There’s a lot done on their own time that is not documented,” he said. “They’re a dedicated group of guys.”
In addition, the department received an $8,300 donation from the Little Falls Fire Department Relief Association for lockers that were installed at the fire hall to hold firefighter equipment. The Musser Fund also donated $1,000 for firefighter equipment.
Little Falls City Council Briefs
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Little Falls City Council:
• Were informed a public hearing was set for Monday, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, regarding the preliminary and final plat of the proposed Zettel’s Golf View Addition, as requested by Steve Zettel. Another public hearing is scheduled at the same time to consider vacating a portion of the buffer zone within the Chief Hole in the Day Addition;
• Approved the hiring of Eric Leisenheimer as a janitor in the Parks, Grounds and Maintenance Department;
• Approved a 20-year natural gas franchise agreement with CenterPoint energy. The payment drop boxes will remain in place for city residents;
• Authorized the hiring of two part-time police officers to alleviate overtime costs for the department, upon the recommendation of Police Chief Greg Schirmers;
• Entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Morrison County Sheriff’s Department when a death investigation is required;
• Were reminded members of the City Council would be serving the OASIS/Share A Meal supper Thursday, Feb. 16.
Due to the Presidents’ Day holiday Monday, Feb. 20, the Little Falls City Council will next meet Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Prior to the regular meeting, the Council will hold its work session at 6:30 p.m.