Comanche County towns vie for storm siren grants

LAWTON--Comanche County's nine rural cities and towns took part in a presentation at the Comanche County Courthouse on Tuesday that could help save lives during storm season.

A representative from the US Department of Agriculture provided information on the USDA's "Rural Development Community Facility Loan and Grant Program".  The program gives out government grant money and loans to rural cities and towns for projects like health care clinics, police and fire stations, schools, child care centers and storm sirens.

Comanche County's rural cities and towns are beginning to experience growth that is leading to the expansion of housing and commerce into areas that were once uninhabited.

"Elgin has expanded and has new growth and the central part of town can hear the siren, but the new parts of town cannot," said Jana Barker, who was representing Elgin Mayor Larry Thoma at Tuesday's meeting.  "At the last council meeting it was brought to our attention that the siren couldn't be heard by everyone that lives in the city.  So, we're looking into what we can do to increase our coverage."

According to the Comanche County Office of Emergency Management, the county has been searching for a storm siren grant for a number of years, but it wasn't until a short time ago that the USDA program was found.  According to Emergency Management Director Clint Wagstaff, the county was looking for a grant program because the costs can run between $10,000 and $20,000 for just a siren.

"It's something the county hasn't been able to do:  put one (storm siren) in each different town," said Chris Killmer, Public Information Officer for Comanche County.  "We've been searching for that program and finally just came across it online looking and searching.  It's something that could help each town if they take advantage of it."

Even though the information was presented today by the county, it is up to each individual city and town to decide whether or not to apply for a USDA loan or grant.  Those invited to today's meeting were Cache, Chattanooga, Elgin, Faxon, Fletcher, Geronimo, Indiahoma, Medicine Park and Sterling.  Cache, Faxon, Fletcher, and Geronimo did not send representatives to Tuesday's meeting, but Faxon was having information delivered to the town following the meeting.