Overturning a decision made only 13 days earlier, the Cold Spring Village Board voted 3-1 on Tuesday night (Sept. 7) to increase the village fire siren’s twice daily tests from one-half second to four seconds, boosting the decibel level as well, leaving the full emergency blast at 40 seconds.

Short one member with the absence of Trustee J. Ralph Falloon, a firefighter who proposed the half-second test on Aug. 25, the board acted on a motion made by Trustee Charles Hustis, who said he regretted his vote two weeks earlier favoring the half-second, low “growl” for the siren.

Trustee Bruce Campbell also switched his vote from two weeks ago, to back the four-second shriek. Trustee Airinhos Serradas, who opposed the half-second option, also voted for the four-second blast, leaving Mayor Seth Gallagher alone in supporting continuation of the half-second “growl.” The move brings with it a village expense to recall the siren company to reprogram the siren. Gallagher has estimated the cost of a visit by the firm at $375.

Approximately 60 supporters and critics of the longer blast packed the village hall meeting room and spilled out into the hall, with impassioned statements coming from both sides of the aisle — literally, given the space separating the two banks of chairs. Throughout much of the discussion, animosity seemed to bounce off the walls, as scowls covered faces, angry shouts broke out from time to time, and Mayor Gallagher issued periodic reminders to everyone to be orderly and not talk at once. A siren supporter could be heard sobbing, while two others frequently broke into their own conversation, competing with whoever held the floor at the moment.

Cold Spring Fire Company President Michael Bowman acknowledged during prior board discussions of the siren that a ½-second “growl” test would be sufficient for testing. Tuesday he contested the right of the Village Board, not the fire company, to determine the length of the test, raising a question that firefighters posed on Aug. 25. “We’re the ones that pay for it,” Gallagher again responded.

Siren critics have presented the board with a mass of information, including data from the siren manufacturer and federal government stating that emergency sirens need only be tested once a month, at a subdued tone — not twice a day at a loud blast. The four-second test is 118 decibels; the half-second test — which actually lasts longer than that, though not at a noise peak — is 102 decibels, which despite the 16-point span represents a 10-fold decrease in affect on the listener. Overall, the debate focused far less on safety requirements or hearing health than preference by some villagers to retain the siren’s loud test voice primarily because they see it as a village tradition.

Siren supporter Donna Nameth said she had circulated a petition favoring the four-second tests and told signers “that the siren was the test for the emergency system. They said they realized that but that wasn’t what was important to them; it’s that they grew up with the siren. It’s a part of Cold Spring. They miss it. They all asked me why the board and the mayor have done this. They wanted to know why one woman could cause so much trouble and change things, something that’s always been.” She apparently referred to Kathleen Foley, who spearheaded the effort against the siren’s volume.

“It bothers me deeply that I have to stand here and come to two meetings to fight for something that I have always had, because someone who moved here four years ago or two years ago or six years ago just doesn’t happen to like it,” said Elizabeth Monroe, another siren fan and long-time resident. She cited the work of the emergency ambulance corps and fire department. “They volunteer to serve this community. A Cold Springer is here, it’s in your hearts,” she told the audience. “I’d be curious to know how many of you have volunteered?”

At least a half dozen of the siren critics, including Foley,  have served as volunteers, or do so currently, with the village or local organizations benefiting the disadvantaged, handicapped, environment, or local history. Unlike firefighters and ambulance corps members, involved in life-threatening activities, they accrue no credits toward pensions, a form of deferred pay. “We’re all here, we’re all Cold Springers,” Foley said. “We’re going to be together for a long time. So we’ve got to work together.”

Jennifer Zwarich, advocated tolerance for those affected by the siren. “There is a certain percentage of the town suffering. It isn’t one woman,” she said. “I can’t believe there are so many people who hold onto the loudness of the siren, that part of the tradition. I understand you want to protect the tradition, but do you really want to have other people suffering so you can hear it louder?”

She praised the work of the firefighters but asked that they “consider everybody in this town because part of your pensions are paid by our taxes.” Living near the corner of Route 9D (Morris Avenue-Chestnut Street) and Route 301 (Main Street), she said she can hear the growl test — several blocks from the siren.

Thomas Ambrose, a resident of Paulding Avenue, said he had attended numerous Village Board meetings during the times the siren was defunct in recent years. “There was no discussion from the public in any of the public meetings about the siren. Why didn’t it come up?” he wondered, suggesting that when the siren wasn’t functioning, “people did not have a problem,” despite the professed fondness for it.

Billy Fields, who backs limits on siren usage and volume, pointed out the restricted range of the siren. “Most of the village doesn’t hear the siren,” negating its role as a clock heralding noon and 6 p.m., he said. “I would like to sound the hours. I would just like to find a better way to do it.”

Lillian Moser, a fire company member and siren supporter, noted that from her house on Main Street, opposite the firehouse, “I barely hear it when there’s a fire alarm.” The “growl” test is all but impossible to hear, she added.

“I think the half-second test sounds like something sick,” Trustee Bruce Campbell agreed, though he expressed his unhappiness at being the likely swing vote, before the tally.

“Four seconds to me really isn’t a problem,” he said. He added that he had conducted considerable research on sirens since the last vote, querying other communities, with the conclusion that “you’re not going to be able to keep everybody happy.” A few minutes later he voted for the four-second test.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as Philipstown.info) in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government

16 replies on “Cold Spring Board Votes Again on Siren, to Increase Blast to 4 Seconds, Twice Daily”

  1. Well I can see that Liz is totally one sided since she has misrepresented and misquoted the members of the fire department. Michael Bowman never made that statement about the 1/2 second test and she left out half of what Lillian Moser said making it sound like Lillian is saying the siren isn’t sufficient. As for the so called pension or deferred pay as Liz called it. These men and women of the fire dept and ambulance corps give many hours of their time not just for calls but for training also. They respond all hours of the night in all kinds of weather. They go into burning building, climb up mountains in the dark to rescue injured or lost hikers and you have the nerve to compare that to those who volunteer a few hours of their time when they feel like it and during normal hours. Where were they on Christmas Eve, I’m sure they were not out in the freezing cold trying to put out a fire. As for the pension you all seem to want to throw in their faces, they more than have earned that few hundred dollars a month that they will receive after 10 plus years of dedicated service. I strongly feel that Liz owes the members of the fire dept and ambulance corp an apology for her above statements

  2. I agree with Donna, so much for this new “news” source in Cold Spring. And people say the PCNR grandstands. The so called pension is not just given to Emergency Services Volunteers its earned. Liz forgot to mention that in order to get this “pension” you have to have at least 50 points a year to count towards a good year. Now this may have changed since I have been a member but I don’t believe it did. So to sum it up a member has to go to at least 50 events (points), that being training, fire calls, fund raisers etc. Bottom line its just not given to you like the article implies. Hopefully the Village of Cold Spring wasted enough money on this issue and moves on to other things.
    In closing I leave all those against the siren with this one thought. I have worked for the US Armed Forces for 23 years and I wonder if these people moved next to a Military Installation would they complain about Revelry at 0700, American National Anthem at 1700 (5:00 PM) and Taps at 2100 (9:00 PM) as it too is tradition and is played over loud speakers on Military Bases around the world. My thanks to Mike Bowman, Donna Nameth and Lillian Moser!

    1. In regard to criticism of the article by Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong of Sept. 9, about the Cold Spring fire siren debate, two points deserve mention:
      1. At the Aug. 3 Village Board meeting in response to a question asking whether a low-volume, quick growl would suffice for testing purposes. Mr. Bowman responded in one word: “Yeh.” This response appears both in Ms. Armstrong’s notes made at the meeting and on her digital recording of the meeting. That response was mentioned in an article of Aug. 5 about the siren and Aug. 3 meeting. No one objected.
      2. It is a fact that volunteer emergency services personnel, involved in life-threatening activities, accrue points toward a pension and that volunteers who serve the community in other capacities do not. This is simply the truth and represents no opinion or judgment about any person, organization, or public policy.

  3. A news article is supposed to be the objective, non-biased reporting of facts. If Liz Armstrong is incapable of performing her job in that manner, perhaps she should find another line of work! To refer to the siren sound as a “shriek” and a “loud blast” is not objective reporting. Neither is the effort to garner sympathy by reporting on the “sobbing” of one of the siren protesters. These items are more sensationalism than reporting. Volunteer pensions are in fact paid for by village taxes. Considering the cost of fully paid professional EMS and fire service the pensions are a miniscule amount to pay. After 22 years of service and responding to more than 2000 EMS calls, I may get $100 a month. I applaud any of the volunteer efforts sited in the article but don’t offend me by comparing them to what those of us in emergency services do and provide to the community.

  4. Tuesday’s Board vote demonstrated once again that if you have a well organized effort and an emotional issue you can get the votes necessary to pass almost anything regardless of the facts, reason, or what is good for the people of a community.

    The twice a day everyday (except Sunday) (13 times/week) (676 times/year) sounding of the siren is not a recommended or needed amount of testing. Add to this the 150 times/year (according to the CSFD website) that the siren is sounded for legitimate purposes and the total comes to 826. This is “testing overkill.” Testing is not the issue.

    The siren is a piece of emergency equipment not a device for marking hours. It should be used for emergencies and tested appropriately.

    The siren is very loud nearby in the residential neighborhood where it is currently located. At the same time in the rest of the Village its sound varies from not bad, to barely audible to not audible at all. Perhaps it is located in the wrong place. Did the CSFD locate it at the edge of the Village for sound reasons?

    I think Liz Armstrong’s article described what happened at the Village Board meeting in a very fair manner despite what some the commenters to this article have written.

    It is a “loud blast” to the people who live nearby the siren.

    Armstrong was not, as one commenter said, trying, “. . . to garner sympathy by reporting on the “sobbing” of one of the siren protesters.” In fact the article said, “A siren supporter could be heard sobbing . . .”

    Another commenter asked where were you during the 2009 Christmas Eve fire? I was there outside for several hours watching the disaster. Thank God the wind wasn’t blowing that night. My nephew, a volunteer fireman from nearby, was having dinner with us that day and went out immediately to join effort and worked for about three hours.

    Commenter shouldn’t dismiss the volunteer efforts of their neighbors without knowing something about who they are and what they do.

    Nobody protesting the siren is in any way critical of the people who volunteer with the Fire Department. The issue is the misuse of the siren. Not the appropriate use of the siren. Maybe the twice a day half-second growl wasn’t a good idea. It wasn’t what we recommended. I would recommend full use of the siren as a backup system for emergencies. Testing as necessary, once a month at full volume or more often with the demonstration of a legitimate need for more testing. The vast majority of volunteer fire departments which have a siren do not test it more than once per week.

    Find another more appropriate, more traditional, way of announcing the hours of twelve noon and six PM.

  5. To all the people who think Liz reported the meeting in a fair and unbiased way, why did she completely leave out Tom Monroe’s statement that he worked not 70 feet from the siren for all those years and recently had his hearing checked and it’s perfectly normal or how there are 86,400 seconds in a day and we are only talking about 8 of those seconds. As for this web site if you are going to talk about issues then I suggest that you know the facts. The fire company’s emergency siren is located at the corner of Main and Cerdar Streets on the pole in front of the Town Hall not by the old cemeteries and Haldane School as stated in your August 24th article. That siren is the Indian Point Emergency Siren!

  6. It is unfortunate that the issue of the fire siren became such a politicized issue. As I stated at the 9/7 meeting, I personally feel that the issue was mishandled by the Mayor. As stated previously in this thread by Mr. Giunta, at the root of this entire controversy is a piece of emergency equipment, which ostensibly falls under the management of the fire chief. Letters regarding any issue with this piece of emergency equipment should have been directed to the Fire Company and we would have listened and acted appropriately – which was done in this instance cutting the test times from 12 seconds to 4 seconds.

    The Cold Spring Fire Company is not a political entity. It has been serving the community since 1896 and has always acted with the best interest of the community at heart. That being said I ask that we put this issue to rest, stop the political indecisiveness, allow firefighters to be firefighters and focus on more important issues within our community.

    I also think that these posting boards should be moderated, as some of the rhetoric is just over the top. Anonymous comments should not be allowed, if someone has something worthwhile and constructive to add to a conversation – say it, but say it honorably.

  7. I. too, believe that someone posting comments should not be afraid to post their name. If you have something to say be a man/woman and have the guts to either sign your name or say it to the person face to face. I live on Main Street three homes away from the siren and I applaud those who were able to get rid of the “sick cow” and put the 4 second siren back in place. I have raised three sons in my house (living there 34 years) and vouch that their hearing is great as is mine. Even Mayor Gallagher grew up on our street with the siren and I found at the meeting on 9/7 his hearing seemed fine. Why would a person purchase a home on a street, knowing that the school buses, ambulances and holy cow, even the Office of the Aging bus travels on, and a siren – remember the first rule in real estate is location, location, location. As a side note, I can sit on my back porch and can hear, albeit faintly, the North Highlands siren when it blows but I don’t recall anyone living close to their facility complaining about their siren

  8. This topic has gotten to the point of inmaturity. If you can’t post your name don’t post anything at all. For “Disgusted” please feel free to stop by the firehouse on Tuesday night after 7pm and please point out the individual responsible for threatning not to save your house if it is on fire or potentially set it themselves. As Chief of the Department I can say that every member reguardless of there opinion on topics or people do not and would not do something like that. The Cold Spring Fire Company always handles themselves as proffesionals and I have a very hard time believing those accusations, but if what you say is true it will not be tolerated at all. As for a “Cold Springer” Liz Armstrong’s job is to report what was said at the meeting not give her opinion. If she feels to leave her opinion she can do like everyone else and post it here. That would be freedom of speech. As for the “Editor” of this site if Liz is going to report back to other meeting comments maybe she should state that. Maybe this topic can finally come to an end before these comments get even more childish.

  9. I think its pretty clear to most people by now that testing the siren twice daily at any volume isn’t necessary from a safety standpoint, and that listening to it twice daily probably isn’t going to cause serious hearing damage to nearby residents either.

    This conflict is really just between residents who like the sound of the siren test as loud and as often as it has been in past years because it reminds them of something or the ritual is comforting or whatever, and residents who don’t like it because they find it annoying, it regularly wakes their kids trying to go down for a nap, etc. This conflict ISN’T between residents who don’t care about neighbor children going deaf and residents who don’t appreciate the sacrifices of the village firemen. I hope we can all trust Chief Tobin’s word that members of the Fire Co. who are in favor of the louder, longer tests won’t retaliate against residents who are in favor of the quieter tests. And hopefully those who are upset at residents like Ms. Foley for attempting to make what they see as positive changes in the community for their families, can keep that in mind and not make personal attacks against their fellow neighbors.

    The worst thing that could come out of this whole thing is the perpetuation of this myth that there is and should be some sort of innate and natural hostility between the old springers and the new springers. Let’s hope everyone can be a little more friendly during whatever becomes the next village controversy.

  10. Does anyone know who is responsible for this site? If so, would you please advise me as I would like to congrat or express my displeasure on the many good articles, along with those that I do not agree with, and the names of those responsible for this site would be appreciated so remarks can be made accordingly

  11. Well whoever is responsible for this site…of all three “news” outlets that cover Cold Spring (PCNR, Courier and this one) that I am aware of as a new resident…I do dare say that this one is by far the most unprofessional. I don’t consider myself a “Springer” or a “Carpetbagger” but from what I read, anyone who says that this article was unbiased is blind.

    As far as I can tell the mysterious “editor” that randomly comments on here is an amalgamation of all the names on the contact form. In essence just another form of anonymous posting. It is sad because the majority of good writers on that list are being overshadowed by poor editing and one or two biased reporters.

    1. Philipstown.info welcomes all comments to the Editor, especially those expressing concerns. The attribution Editor is neither “mysterious”, nor “just another form of anonymous posting”. It is standard ‘professional’ practice at papers such as the PCNR that a publication rather than individual journalists respond. In the Cold Spring Siren discussion, the Editor made only two previous comments, neither of them “random.” The first supplied essential facts which have not been challenged. The second replied to a reader’s question, for which appreciation was expressed (which the Editor appreciates).

      Complaints of bias are very difficult to evaluate when no specific examples are cited, while readers who might not “see” things a certain way are called “blind.”

  12. As someone who was quoted in this article, I would like to clarify what point I was attempting to make at the Village Board meeting. There are many important issues facing this village, including but not limited to: extremely aged water system, development threats to size and scale of Haldane, extensive vacancies on Main St businesses.Why is it that an issue as relatively inconsequential as a sirens duration could spark such intense community participation? I grew up in a town which had sirens at 12 and 6 everyday just like Cold Spring so to me it is not a huge thing to have a siren sound twice daily, I’m used to it. The reality is that does a second or two more or less really fundamentally change life here? No.

    What does change life here is whether we as residents have water and what the costs will be to repair the potentially failing damns and severely deteriorated water main which provides it to be used in homes or extinguishing fires. Or a 20% increase in the number of students attending Haldane. Or number of other issues.

    The very next item on the Board’s agenda that night was to pick three firms to submit bids for the renovation of Main St which would be predominantly funded through a state grant which expires. One might consider the potential reworking or redesign of Main St of interest to community members concerned about change in the village. Almost every person there for the “siren” issue left immediately after the vote, satisfied or crestfallen depending on what viewpoint was held.

    My point is that perhaps the energy invested on research, letter writing, canvasing, petitions, attendance etc. could be put to a more productive purpose, benefiting all residence of the community regardless of how long they have or have not lived here.

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