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Protecting their own

NEW BEDFORD — Residents in New Bedford can sleep a little bit more soundly now, especially when bad weather is threatening.

On Thursday, a new severe weather siren was erected in the village park, thanks to the efforts of one village trustee and a bunch of other concerned folks.

Trustee Bill Jensen has been a trained weather spotter for years and has always had a fascination with storms.

“When storms approach New Bedford from the west, you could see them split,” he said. “It’s like they follow the interstates, either Interstate 88 and the Rock River, or Interstate 80 and the Hennepin Canal.”

But the storms don’t always split around New Bedford.

“Every once in awhile we would get one that would have a little more steam to it, and it would blow through the Y, I’d always call it,” Jensen said.

Four years ago, Jensen was elected to the town board. At the same time, he had a retraining through the Bureau County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency on weather-spotting.

“I realized we needed protection because we had none,” he said.

So Jensen talked with ESDA Director Kris Donarski, who gave him some ideas to start the project.

Jensen became discouraged when nothing seemed to be working out until he saw Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) at the Bureau County Fair. Moffitt looked into the issue, and after a few more dead ends, learned about a grant for the weather siren through the state fire marshal’s office.

So Jensen turned to the Manlius Fire Department, which had to submit the information on the grant.

Finally the department was awarded the grant, but that was just the beginning of more waiting.

“We waited for this thing like 2.5 years,” Jensen said. “With the budget of Illinois, they told the fire department twice that the money was there and the check would be sent, and they never received it.”

While they were waiting for the money, the fire department found the exact siren the village wanted through Gem Electronics in Monmouth. The pole for the siren was elected last fall, and the siren was ordered.

Finally the money arrived, and the siren was installed Thursday.

“It was just a matter of getting everything lined up and decent weather and just getting everybody’s schedules lined up to get this project done,” Jensen said. “Everything kind of fell together (Thursday), and we got it done.”

Jensen said getting the siren installed was the result of the work of many people, including Moffitt, Donarski, Manlius Fire Chief Bob Neahring, other members and trustees of the fire department, Ross Beedle of Gem Electronics, and Don Elmore and Elmore Electric.

For now the siren will be activated through the Manlius Fire Department’s paging system, although village officials also can do it manually.

Jensen said people can feel more secure now with the siren installed.

“We had basically no way of knowing other than for the people that may be watching TV or have a weather radio,” Jensen said. “Now, even if it’s the middle of the night, they’re now going to know that there’s a storm coming.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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