Sounding the alarm Development residents raise concern over siren system used here

By on July 11, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Noise generated by a local fire siren is raising the ire of some living in the Brickyard development.

Chondra Mast, representing a group of those residents appeared before Ephrata Borough Council Monday night to request something be done to either tone down the volume of the sirens or perhaps better deflect the loud blare away from the development. Mast also addressed what seems to be some inconsistency with how the sirens are being sounded.

Mast has appeared before council in the past and promised to return with data to back up claims that the sirens amount to a bit of a nuisance. According to data collected, 17 percent of the sirens sounded were completely unreported as to the reasons for the call. She said that many of the sirens were non-fire related incidents.

"One incident on March 13, when three cars collided in the Brickyard development there was no siren," said Mast. "It just seems inconsistent that some are non-recorded with a siren but others have no siren."

Data presented indicated that on several occasions the sirens went off five times in a single day.

"The sirens went off five times one day, but only two of the incidents were recorded," claimed Mast.

Ephrata Borough Manager Bob Thompson confirmed Wednesday morning that there are several sirens which serve Pioneer Fire Company. There is one siren located in the vicinity of the Glen-Gery Brick building on East Queen Street heading up into the Brickyard Development, in addition to one located on the former Wenger Feed Mill building off East Main Street and another on the Public Works complex off of Church Avenue.

Mast said she has been carefully monitoring fire calls against incidents reported on-line by the county emergency dispatch website at lcwc911.us/lcwc/lcwc/publiccad.asp. That helped her determine what seemed to be some level of inconsistency with incident reporting versus actual sirens.

"Please find some relief for the residents in the Brickyard," pleaded Mast. "Could you look at relocating the siren or installing a shield underneath to deflect the noise upward and outward?"

Over the past four months Mast said she had recorded 65 sirens for an average of 17 per month.

"I would stop and say a prayer for those people if they were fire-related incidents," said Mast. "I just hope that we can find a middle ground and a solution."

Mayor Ralph Mowen, himself an active member of the Pioneer Fire Company, along with members of Ephrata Borough Council were sympathetic to Mast’s concerns.

"We get a monthly report from the Lincoln and Pioneer fire companies which show all the times they get a call out and what for," said Council Member Anthony Kilkuskie. "These reports are interesting and informative for us. They might be for the residents as well."

At Kilkuskie’s request Mast was given current copies of the reports from both fire companies.

For his part, Mowen explained that if a fire company does not acknowledge a response within four minutes the county automatically re-dispatches, which could cause the siren to be sounded a second time.

"I will look into your concerns," said Mowen who committed to working with borough officials as well as county emergency coordinator Randy Gockley, who was in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

"Both fire companies were approached a few years ago so that the second siren should not go off," noted Gockley who also expresses a willingness to work with Mowen to look into Mast’s concerns.

"I’m concerned that the fire siren goes off for a non-fire related incident," commented Council Member Robert Good. "If they need the fire company to respond to an automobile accident, how will they do that if they don’t sound the siren?"

Mast responded that she felt there may be some inconsistency with regard to how the siren is used in such incidents. Mowen reiterated several times a commitment to follow up with Mast and her neighbors and to see what might be worked out.

In related news, during general comments, Good congratulated Police Chief William Harvey and his staff for a job well done.

"I am more and more impressed with our police department," said Good. "I think the (police department report) is pretty eye-opening as to what occurs with the criminal element within our community. Our clearance rates compared to the national average show we are obviously ahead of the game. We can be very proud."

Harvey gave credit to Lt. Chris McKim for compiling the monthly reports.

Good added that he gets to read some of the e-mails about compliments to the officers and the department as a whole received from those living within the community.

"From victims and people who have experienced tragedy, the department not only receives compliments on the department’s professionalism but also the compassion officers show under very stressful times. It speaks so highly of a department that can put those two elements together and that speaks to good leadership."

Mowen agreed.

"I just want to say how extremely happy I am with the direction of our police department over the past several years," added Mowen. "In my tenure I don’t remember all the people who have said how they appreciate the professionalism of the department. It speaks tons to the leadership below me and I congratulate the department."

In other council news, members approved a new street closure plan for the upcoming 2012 Ephrata Fair. According to the plan, the Pioneer Fire Company will post temporary no-parking signs on Fulton Street beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 through 6 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30. The signs will affect parking on both sides of West Fulton Street between South State Street and Arch Street impacting 13 spaces and one handicapped space. It will also affect East Fulton Street from South State Street to Lake Street, which will impact another nine parking spaces.

The Ephrata Fair Committee will be sending letters to all residents in the impacted area advising them of the changes.

"Just so people are aware that this is the first time that we’ve done this," noted Good. "This is to ensure that the largest piece of equipment the (Pioneer) fire company has can be clear to make the way through the streets considering the certain turning radius’ needed."

Good also said that one person who would be impacted by the temporary closure of a handicapped parking space indicated this would not create a problem.

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit www.ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More EPHRATA BOROUGH, page A16

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