This was a no-brainer. • July Fourth fireworks, or emergency broadcast radio system? • Fun, or safety? • Tarpon Springs commissioners didn't have to think long about that one. They decided that the money budgeted for the city's annual July Fourth fireworks show at Fred Howard Park should be spent to repair the city's AM 1610 emergency radio system, which can be used to broadcast emergency messages to the public.
Tarpon Springs isn't the first city in Florida to conclude that budgets are too tight this year to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fireworks shows. The fireworks at Fred Howard Park on Independence Day are a tradition in Tarpon, but the show costs $22,500, not including the extra hours city employees must work to cover the event and clean up afterward.
That's just about what it would cost, commissioners learned, to replace the equipment that has kept the radio alert system inoperable since last summer. The city attempted to find sponsors who would pay for the fireworks, but when that didn't bear fruit, commissioners decided the $22,500 would be better spent on getting the radio system up and running before hurricane season starts June 1.
Locals will remember that the emergency radio system originally was installed to warn the community of fires or other emergencies at the Stauffer Chemical Superfund site. In 1997 when workers attempted to remove old barrels of elemental phosphorus, some caught fire and noxious smoke blew toward homes.
The low-frequency radio equipment was purchased for the city by Stauffer Management Co. and housed on the Superfund site, but it is no longer working and Stauffer Management does not want it to remain on the property.
The city will now go out for bids to replace the equipment and will house it in the city's public safety building. In an emergency, people could tune to AM 1610 and hear broadcasts about the emergency and get instructions. The system can be used to alert the public to everything from tornadoes and flooding to school shootings and terrorist threats.
The equipment also will allow the city to receive emergency broadcasts directly from the National Weather Service and transmit those to the public.
When there is no emergency, the system can be used to broadcast other helpful information. It covers a 3.5-mile radius, according to the city.
Such a system is a helpful addition to other methods local governments would use to communicate with the public in an emergency. And with hurricane season looming, the City Commission made the right decision to protect the public's health, safety and welfare.