SIKESTON - It's like car insurance. You hope to never have to use it, but you're sure glad you have it when you need it.
One area town couldn't agree more. When the City of Morley bought its new emergency warning siren in March, city officials never imagined having to actually use it just days after installing it. The tornado that was sighted April 24 around the Bell City/Vanduser area came before the new equipment, which went on line April 12, even had time to be given a trial run.
For Morley residents, the emergency warning siren's arrival was a welcomed sight. Not only is it the city's first warning siren, it is the first in the county to be hooked up with the 911 system.
A special encoder installed at the 911 office allows officials to activate the siren in case of an emergency and will also enable additional communities in Scott County to have their warning systems activated by the 911 officials.
The Whelen VORTEX 129dbe system has a 6,000-foot coverage and is located near the fire station and ball field It was purchased from Fesler's Inc. in North Liberty, Iowa.
"Our weather watchers spotted the tornado and called 911 which set off the siren. Although we'd like to never have to use it, under the circumstances I was glad to hear it," said Mayor Hallie Granville of its first use. "People said they could hear it up by Benton so I think it's going to help the whole area around us."
Credited for coming up with the idea is Wanda Penn who approached the mayor a couple of years ago about finding a way to notify elderly residents of inclement weather.
That one request, Granville said, put the wheels in motion. For two years proceeds from the Morley Fall Festival's auction were targeted for the siren and the fundraising efforts were helped with a matching grant and a partial matching grant from the Modern Woodmen.
The importance of the equipment for the city prompted a $6,000 donation from the Morley Community Betterment Group, a $4,500 Community Facility Grant and finally, a $4,500 Community Facility Loan from USDA, Rural Development.
Ameren UE donated the pole for the $15,000 siren.
"Getting this siren was really a community effort, the whole town's really supporting it," remarked Granville. "Morley's a good little town to come together on things like this."
The City of Morley became aware of the possibility of a USDA, Rural Development loan or grant from an outreach video. "They began working with me and I guided them through the application process for a combination loan and grant which was approved June 15, 2001," said Phyllis Minner, community development manager.
"Rural Development is very happy to put the last piece of financing together for Morley's siren," Minner said. "Through Rural Development's Community Facility Loan and Grant Program, we are always looking at ways to assist communities in enhancing their ability to grow and improve their quality of life."
Although she said the state allocation for community facility grants are limited, Minner pointed out there is a special economic initiative set-aside program that allows USDA, Rural Development to access set-aside funds from Washington. The two rounds for the grant money are May 3 and Aug. 16.
Communities interested in applying for a Community Facility Grant should contact Minner at 573-624-5939, Extension 4.