The Rockwall City Council at its Monday meeting addressed community concerns over apparently malfunctioning emergency warning sirens, acknowledging that three such sirens, in particular, were in need of repairs.
The Council voted to approve a $117,693.28 contract with American Signal Corporation for the replacement of three specific sirens, located at State Highway 205 and Emma Jane Road, and in the Shores and Chandler’s Landing neighborhoods.
According to Assistant City Manager Joey Boyd, the SH 205 siren has a “dead horn motor” and has been rendered completely inoperable. The other two, both embedded in neighborhoods, have both experienced some degree of electrical malfunctioning that has significantly reduced their dependability.
Boyd also noted that all three sirens slated for replacement are believed to be at least 30 years old, and that workable replacement parts for the old models are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
“All three will be replaced with new American Signal models,” Boyd said, “and each will provide a 4,500-foot diameter area of coverage.”
Boyd also mentioned that the few solar-powered sirens that the city installed in recent years have not performed well in the last many serious storms.
“We usually, in a storm event, deploy those sirens and we get one or two rounds of sirens before the stored power runs out,” Boyd said, “so we’re proposing that we retrofit those sirens to run on utility line power, and to update their software, which is no longer supported by the manufacturer.”
The emergency siren decisions followed multiple community reports that the nearest sirens couldn’t be heard during the recent severe weather event two weeks ago.
The Council also addressed a request for an exception to the city’s zoning ordinances regarding the required amount of green space and trees in a planned development.
The subdivision in development was represented by John Delin of R.W. Ladera, who explained that the standard requirements for tree mitigation were unclear during the planning of the subdivision. Delin also expressed his hope that the development’s extension of city sewer services, which would potentially connect to an adjacent, future development, would engender the city’s good graces on the issue.
City ordinances in Rockwall, as in most Texas cities, require tree mitigation on an inch-by-inch basis, meaning that if a development project involves the uprooting of existing trees, the developer in question must choose to either replant new trees on the same property, to help the city replant new trees elsewhere or to provide a cash payment to the city for use in the maintenance and planting of trees in the city’s parks.
While some trees, such as older hardwoods, are given more consideration, the measure is aimed at preserving the city’s green spaces and air quality, and Mayor Jim Pruitt told Delin Monday night that the city has taken a firm stance in nearly every instance of tree mitigation.
The trees displaced by the forthcoming R.W. Ladera development would, per city ordinance, amount to an approximately $70,000 payment to the city for their replacement, which, despite the roughly $40 million pricetag of the entire development, Delin sought relief from.
After some negotiation, Pruitt convinced Delin to accept a relief for approximately $20,000, only requiring that the development provide a cash payment to the city of $50,000.
City Councilman Patrick Trowbridge explained that the city often prefers payments directly into the park system over on-site tree replacement, since it allows the city to plant new trees where they’re most needed.