It's Wednesday June 19, 2013
November 1, 2012
It now appears that the fire siren will not be moving from a perch next to Oriental’s Town Hall.
That’s the upshot of a Tuesday morning meeting between Town Manager Bob Maxbauer — who had previously wanted to move the siren and tower — and several members of the local volunteer fire department which wanted it to stay where it had been for half a century. Also attending were two Town Commissioners.At the standing room only meeting Monday night at which the Town Manager’s plans to move the fire siren came under fire. The Town Board, in foreground, heard from the Town Manager, seated at left and from the fire department, lined up along the right. Most in the audience sided with the fire department and opposed moving the town from Town Hall.
That agreement came to pass after an outcry from one neighborhood and a specially called meeting of Oriental’s Town Board on Monday night.
The special meeting was scheduled after residents near the Oriental Woman’s Club on Gilgo Road got wind last week that the Town Manager wanted to move the siren from Town Hall — where it had been for more than half a century — and that a town-owned lot next to OWC could become the siren’s next home.
The residents opposed having the Cold War era siren in their residential neighborhood. The Southeastern Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department also opposed moving the siren and says it made that clear months earlier to the Town Manager.Town Manager Bob Maxbauer who said he wanted to move the fire siren from Town Hall because he didn’t think it would fit in with the ‘aesthetic” of the building once its renovations were done. He also claimed it would cost between $7,000-$12,000 to wire the Town Hall for the siren. The fire department challenged those figures.
Residents say they sent emails to the Town Manager and got no reply. Some commissioners did respond and arranged the meeting Monday night which more than 50 residents and members of the fire department attended. There, Fire Chief Alan Arnfast and other fire officials challenged the Town Manager’s stated reasons for moving the siren.“Aesthetic” and Money Cited
Town Manager Bob Maxbauer spoke of the fire siren tower being at odds with the “aesthetic” and “positiveness” of the Town Hall, whose renovation he is overseeing as general contractor. Maxbauer said he saw the Town Hall becoming “a focal point for our town” and said he thought it would be better to find another place for the siren and its tower than behind the building.Southeastern Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department chief Alan Arnfast and the deparetment’s president, Henry Frazer listen as Town Manager Bob Maxbauer lays out his reasons for seeking alternative places for the fire siren. Arnfast said the fire department wanted it to stay at Town Hall and expressed skepticism Monday night at the price quotes the Town Manager cited for re-connecting the siren there.
Maxbauer also acted as architect for the retrofit project and did away with the 3-phase electrical power that had been linked to Town Hall in the past in order to run the siren. (The renovated Town Hall will include the old generator from the water plant — so that Town Hall can have power when there’s an outage. While it had been a 3-phase generator, Maxbauer said it functioned only as a 1-phase.)Bob Maxbauer, Town Manager and general contractor for the Town Hall renovation, holds up papers to buttress his claim that it would cost the Town upwards of $7,000 to re-install the fire siren at Town Hall. At left, in blue, is Laura Penninger, the recently hired project assistant (temporary) for the Town Hall project.
Maxbauer came to the Monday meeting with an estimate of what it would cost at this time to rewire the Town Hall to accommodate the 3-phase power for the siren. He held up an estimate he said came from Progress Energy, dated October 19, that claimed PE would charge the town $7,000 to bring 400 amps of 3-phase power to the building.
Beyond that, Maxbauer claimed, it would cost several thousand dollars for some other parts of the installation. (Commissioners in recent days were quoting Maxbauer as saying it would cost more than $12,000 to keep the siren at Town Hall.)Members of the Southeastern Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department – Jan Dique, Mike Guzzo, Chief Alan Arnfast, President Henry Frazer, Bob Dales and Danny Foreman. Other members of the fire department were part of the audience in the meeting held at the First Baptist Church, which has served as a meeting place since Hurricane Irene flooded Town Hall.Fire Department Skepticism Over Manager’s Price Quotes
Those numbers drew some deep skepticism from the Fire Department and Fire Chief Alan Arnfast. At Arnfast’s side Monday night was volunteer firefighter Mike Guzzo, an electrician by trade, who backed up Arnfast’s suggestion that the 3-phase power could be obtained for less than the estimate put forward by the Town Manager.
For example, they noted, the siren needed only 14 amps of power, not 400, a distinction that could knock back the estimate significantly. The firefighters suggested other ways of wiring the system so that the power was there for the approximately 24 times a year the siren is sounded.“Blindsided” by “Executive Decision”
Arnfast said that Maxbauer initially came to the Fire Department in August with his proposal to move the siren. The department at that time, says Arnfast, unanimously voted against that. One reason: they anticipated resistance from neighbors if the Town tried to move it anywhere from where it had been for more than 50 years.
Arnfast says the Fire Department thought that having made their views known in August, the siren would remain at Town Hall. At a meeting last week, however, volunteer fireman Danny Foreman says that Maxbauer told him that as Town Manager he could make the “‘executive decision’” to move the siren to a tower elsewhere.Volunteer firefighter Danny Foreman at the Monday night Town Board meeting held at the First Baptist Church. Foreman said that the Town Manager had told him a week earlier that as Town Manager he could make the “executive decision” to move the tower.
When Foreman related that conversation to the Town Board at the Monday meeting, Maxbauer denied that he’d said that. Contacted after the meeting, Danny Foreman stood by his account, adding that the Town Manager told him he could move the tower regardless of any outcry that might come up among residents or in the media.
Alan Arnfast told the Town Board that he felt “blindsided” by the news that the Town Manager wasn’t keeping the siren at Town Hall — as he thought they’d agreed.Some of the crowd at Monday night’s Town Board meeting. Many reside near the town’s lot on Gilgo Road which the Town Manager planned as an alternative site for the siren rather than keeping it at Town Hall.
(Ahead, the public comments..)