Our City Council’s Strange Decision

I noticed it the first few late evenings after my move to a different town last fall. How could I not? It was a loud, wailing, siren, foreboding and impersonal. Unlike friendly chimes of a city clock, this signal made me want to look for the nearest bomb shelter. My daughters said it went off at 9:58 each night.

We speculated often. Was it some kind of curfew signal? This got us talking about dystopias, about gangs on the street each night. You weren’t safe unless you were indoors. The sound never failed to startle visitors in our home. One thought it must be the end-of-shift siren for the workers at the nearby train yard. I accepted that explanation, until one night, I happened to be driving through downtown right at ten pm. The siren suddenly blasted, and there was no mistaking its origins. It most definitely did not come from the train yard, but wailed deafeningly from some building near me.

I reported the experience to the girls, and somewhere around that time, I looked it up online. Sure enough, there had been a siren installed at city hall. No, not installed—re-installed. It had been originally set up around the early 1900’s. For some reason, the city recently decided to revive it. It had indeed functioned as a curfew signal. Now, many things were done a hundred years ago that now seem strange to us. I will give my great-grandparents’ generation their siren that they apparently felt they needed. But us? Now? Why? The article did not really explain the city’s rationale in reviving the eerie late-night call to empty the streets (which no one heeds, as we have noted when passing through downtown at two a.m.). Perhaps they felt it was a historical touch that added to the town’s charm, like the antique architecture in the old part of Helena.

I have other questions, too. How much did this thing cost to revive and run? Did the city have to tap into the special tourist sales tax they felt was needed to accommodate all the traffic generated by winter skiers and summer hikers? Do any residents complain of its being a nuisance for those who need to retire early to get up for work the next day? If the council was trying to create a conversation piece, they certainly succeeded.

What interesting development has occurred in your area due to mysterious decision-making processes?

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11 thoughts on “Our City Council’s Strange Decision”

  1. The city council fell to the Siren’s call.

    sawatdeeka, this makes little sense because I don’t see how a curfew can be enforced. It might have the opposite effect of all the cool kids will not follow the curfew.

    Thank you for this insight into Montana.

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  2. What I read was the city built a new city hall. During that time the city had no siren. At one time the curfew was at 8 pm. It switched to 10 pm about 75 years ago.

    When I was growing up they used to test a siren every Wednesday afternoon in the town I lived in. It was to tell everyone to turn on the radios or TVs.

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  3. sawatdeeka:
    Do any residents complain of its being a nuisance for those who need to retire early to get up for work the next day?

    And Montanans put up with that?

    I’d think that public nuisance on top of the city hall would be an easy one-shot kill from 1500 metres with a Barrett M82, which I presumed everybody in Montana carried around in their truck just in case.  After a hit with a 50 gram projectile at Mach 2, it may sigh, but it won’t reen.

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  4. John Walker:

    sawatdeeka:
    Do any residents complain of its being a nuisance for those who need to retire early to get up for work the next day?

    And Montanans put up with that?

    I’d think that public nuisance on top of the city hall would be an easy one-shot kill from 1500 metres with a Barrett M82, which I presumed everybody in Montana carried around in their truck just in case.  After a hit with a 50 gram projectile at Mach 2, it may sigh, but it won’t reen.

    This town is a little Lefty. They vote Democrat. Montana is not as red as you would think, due to people moving in from other states, especially California. However, this is a blue spot surrounded otherwise by lots of red.

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  5. We have a system of sirens, with about fifty in order to cover the entire county.   They get sounded every Saturday at noon to test the system.

    About a decade ago there was an incident down in Mississippi in which sirens failed and a number of people were hurt in a tornado that caught them by surprise.   It turned out that their sirens had only been tested monthly.   In response, for whatever reason (probably an advisory bulletin from the Federal Government), our County decided to have routine tests twice each week, so for the past ten years we hear the sirens both at noon on Saturday and on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 local time.

    It is a good system.   Usually I am aware if strong weather is in the forecast, but many times I have heard the sirens and thought, “oh, yeah, time to wrap this up and get inside.”

    I agree; daily testing at 10:00 pm would be a nuisance.   It should be protested vigorously.

    And, it makes sense that, if it was historic, then newby Leftist residents would want to virtue signal preservationism in a way guaranteed to annoy the entire population with quaint sirens.

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  6. MJBubba:
    We have a system of sirens, with about fifty in order to cover the entire county.   They get sounded every Saturday at noon to test the system.

    About a decade ago there was an incident down in Mississippi in which sirens failed and a number of people were hurt in a tornado that caught them by surprise.   It turned out that their sirens had only been tested monthly.   In response, for whatever reason (probably an advisory bulletin from the Federal Government), our County decided to have routine tests twice each week, so for the past ten years we hear the sirens both at noon on Saturday and on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 local time.

    It is a good system.   Usually I am aware if strong weather is in the forecast, but many times I have heard the sirens and thought, “oh, yeah, time to wrap this up and get inside.”

    I agree; daily testing at 10:00 pm would be a nuisance.   It should be protested vigorously.

    And, it makes sense that, if it was historic, then newby Leftist residents would want to virtue signal preservationism in a way guaranteed to annoy the entire population with quaint sirens.

    I never thought of it as an emergency signal. Maybe that’s what it is meant to be. In that case, maybe it is a good idea.

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  7. Mon Dieu, I feel your pain.

    I just left a city where the Council went out of their way to justify their jobs by endlessly installing useless things that not only cluttered a beautiful town but used taxpayer dollars needed to improve water drainage after tropical storms and hurricanes. That should have been a priority.

    My old neighborhood is still prone to floods but we have brand new (ugly) walnut trees planted on my old street except on my previous property because I bitched so intensely, they backed off.

    And let’s not forget the infamous round-a-abouts that replaced 4-way stop signs and continue to cause accidents. My husband and I own an expensive car and drive very, very carefully but managed to get into two serious accidents (I’ve had 4 surgeries) because people do not understand STOP unless they see it in their face after they finish their text.

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  8. EThompson:
    My old neighborhood … we have brand new (ugly) walnut trees planted on my old street

    What kind of walnut trees ?

    I never heard of walnut trees used by a municipality for street tree plantings.   What comes to my mind is native black walnut trees, which, while they are wonderful trees,  would be a very bad choice for that application.

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  9. MJBubba:
    What kind of walnut trees ?

    Je ne sais pas. Ugly ones that did not even begin to fit or coordinate with my palms, Japanese maples, or orange blossom shrubs.

    You would have enjoyed my temper tantrum (perhaps the sin of wrath?) when I finally got the mayor over to look at the damage because they’d already been planted. I see him often at my manicurist’s salon where he is there weekly to get his nails buffed, so I figured I had an upper hand here. 🙂

    He had them taken down the very next day.

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