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Sirens or Automated Messages? Drew Co. Debates Emergency Response

A meeting is planned for Monday in Drew County to discuss a major safety issue that involves hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
DREW COUNTY, AR -- A meeting is planned for Monday in Drew County to discuss a major safety issue that involves hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

The county judge says an automated system of emails, text messages and phone calls is the cheapest, most effective way to alert folks of an emergency.
   
But leaders in the county's biggest city, Monticello, are advocating for a system of traditional sirens.
   
Circles on the map of Drew County show the concerns of Judge Robert Akin. He says only residents inside the circles could hear one of the proposed sirens going off during a severe weather event.
   
That's why Akin is talking up a two-pronged approach: sirens for the city of Monticello and an automated system in the county to send out emails, text messages and phone calls during an emergency.
   
Around town we found folks split on the issue.

"I stay on my phone all day, 24-7," said Lacey Gradg, a University of Arkansas at Monticello student. "Text alerts would be better."

"Some people do not have a land lines," said Drew County resident Michelle Davis. "Some people do not have their cell phone with them at all times."

Officials with the city of Monticello say they have doubts about an automated system. They point to so called "dead zones" where cellphone reception is poor and worry phone systems could get bogged down during an emergency.
   
They've been working for six years on a half-million dollar agreement where the federal government would pay 75 percent of costs to install 27 sirens across the county.
   
If the county backs out on the money it has agreed to chip in, city officials say the whole siren project is at risk of falling apart.

Monday evening at the Drew County Quorum Court meeting, the city and county will present arguments on what they are advocating for. Representatives of both the siren and automated system companies will be on hand to answer questions.
   
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