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Weather revives siren issue

As Marengo County approaches the time of year when tornadoes are common, emergency response teams are gearing up. In south Marengo County, most of these squads are rely heavily on volunteers, grants and donations to function.

Tuesday, representatives of the Surginer Volunteer Fire Department and South Marengo Rescue Squad appealed to the Marengo County Commission to help them better serve their people.

One item on the list for Surginer was emergency sirens.

John Coker, Chief of the Surginer Volunteer Fire Department, said he came before the commission last year to seek help with this problem.

“We asked a year ago if we could get some kind of protection in our part of the county or these storms that come through on a regular basis,” Coker said. “We are in tornado alley. I know the money is tight and our commissioner Calvin Martin has done a great job in helping us get some of the roads straightened out, but we need some protection.”

Last year, Coker said, a tornado hit their community and took one family’s home out. Coker said they would like to see sirens placed in Magnolia, Vineland and Dixons Mills.

Marengo County EMA Director Kevin McKinney said they have already taken steps to solve this problem and could get a pleasant surprise.

“I have sent out bids for two,” McKinney said. “We sent out bids on those and they haven’t come in, but the feedback I am getting from the vendors is we may be able to buy three. One of those would be for Dixons Mills because we are trying to put them close to the schools.”

The department also expressed their gratitude to the Thomaston and Dixons Mills Fire Departments for donating trucks and also announced plans to put an extension nine miles from the current station in Magnolia on County Road 73.

Commission Chairman Ken Tucker thanked the members of the department for all they do and said the commission would look into ways to help.

“We are as pleased as we can be that you guys have made the sacrifice and effort to do what you have done,” Tucker said. “You are serving the public and we are glad that you are there. We want to be as supportive as we can be.”

The commission also heard from Dickie Rogers, of the South Marengo Rescue Squad. Rogers said his group covered roughly one-third of the county, which can get expensive. Recently, he said they spent a lot of money for things like a dispatcher and new equipment.

They also received $59,000 on one grant, $22,000 on another and $1,600 on another, but these funds are appropriated, which means there are certain items the money must be spent on.

The main problem, Rogers said, was keeping their trucks ready for emergencies.

“In trying to keep these vehicles going, we don’t just have one station,” Rogers said. “We have four stations and it costs a lot to keep them going.”

The rescue squad, Rogers said, just spent $903 on a fire truck, $22,000 on getting a vehicle from Atlanta and $6,000 in repairs. They are also in the process of constructing a building for $39,703.

To keep their territory covered, Rogers said, they needed assistance.

“We are asking the county to assist us,” Rogers said. “The vehicle we bought, the motor messed up and that was an additional $6,083 that we hadn’t planned on. If the county could assist us in any way possible we would appreciate it.”

The official request was made for $5,000.

Tucker said they were glad to have the squad in place and would look into providing assistance.

“I don’t think you will find anyone in this room that does not appreciate what you do,” Tucker said. “You contribute in so many different ways and have done an excellent job.”

The commission will have an open discussion at their next meeting.