Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TOP STORY > >Senior center given funding for safe room

By Garrick Feldman
Leader executive editor

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher had some good news and bad news after he returned to work this week after a holiday break.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced a $409,979 grant to build a safe room at the Jacksonville Senior Center on Victory Circle, which will serve as a shelter in emergencies.

The bad news is that the old siren at the 911 center on Harris Road is not working and may not be repaired for up to six weeks.

The siren has stopped working because of stripped gears, Fletcher said, and it may be February before they’re up and running.

He urged residents to sign up for the city’s CodeRed emergency service, which notifies residents by phone if there’s a tornado or another emergency.

Many cities have done away with sirens and are using automated alert systems. But he said the city has only 4,000 registrants and urged those who haven’t signed up for the free program to do so immediately.

Residents can register their home or cell phone numbers at www.cityofjacksonville.net, or by calling 982-3146 or 982-6071.

“We can’t notify you of an emergency if your phone number is not registered,” the mayor pointed out. “Many people don’t have land lines and are not registered. They can register their cell phone numbers.”

The city’s matching fund for the senior-center safe room is $136,659, bringing the total cost of the project to $546,638.

The 2,200-square-foot room will be added on to the senior center and could be completed as soon as next year.

The room will have an automatic door, so it will open whenever people go there in emergencies, Fletcher said.

The city is building another safe room at the new 911 emergency center at the site of the old Vertac chemical plant on Marshall Road.