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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Warning System Debate Continues in Stone Harbor

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – It started with long, multi-year negotiations at the urging of Stone Harbor residents Ned and Sharon Galbally. At issue was an audible emergency warning device’s location on a pole next to the Galbally’s home. 

The 106th Street device is frequently called a siren, even though it long ago ceased to be such. It is a broadcast device capable of delivering verbal messages about imminent weather threats. It is part of the borough’s broader network of mechanisms for notifying residents and visitors about impending events and potential flooding. 

Councilman Frank Dallahan has frequently urged Borough Council to be sensitive to the petitions from the Galballys 

The council expressed its commitment by voting to move the device, while also acknowledging it had not identified a new location for it. That vote came Feb. 2, with three “aye” votes, one no vote, and two abstentions. 

The issue reappeared on the council’s June 15 agenda, when Dallahan provided a status report showing no new location for the device, but instead focused on other warning mechanisms the borough was considering, as part of its overall strategy.  

Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Jonathan LaKose said he feared the discussion was moving in a direction that would lead to removing the 106th Street device. He argued that none of the discussions of additional warning mechanisms should be construed as alternatives to the audible alert system already in place.  

Fire Chief Roger Sanford joined LaKose to put his many years of experience firmly behind the same advice – move the device at 106th Street, if necessary, but do not decommission it. 

Lakose noted that all coastal municipalities have sirens or other audible systems. Avalon has three large sirens, and Stone Harbor has four smaller message alert devices.  

Lakose said the borough was also dangerously close to not using the system properly.  

“We have to not be afraid to use it because it will upset someone,” Lakose said.  

He noted that the audible emergency system had only been used twice, so far, in 2021, a burden he did not feel was too great for certain residents to carry. 

People who used public comment to offer opinions agreed. As one resident put it, “We need the sirens, and they should be used more often.” She noted that cars and other property are at risk when the sirens are not used to warn of imminent flooding.  

A spokesperson for the Stone Harbor Chamber of Commerce followed, adding support for maintaining the audible system. 

Business Administrator Robert Smith also reminded the council that the audible system gains Community Rating System (CRS) points, which, in turn, translate into lower flood insurance premiums for all borough homeowners. 

Dallahan said, “No one is suggesting doing away with the siren.”  

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

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