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Daily siren upsetting Helotes councilman

Alarm goes off every day at noon

HELOTES, Texas – A repaired siren in a Northwest Bexar County town is raising alarms for a city leader who calls the emergency warning system archaic.

Earlier this year, the city of Helotes began daily testing of a siren on top of a public works building along Bandera Road.

The building is surrounded by several businesses.

Place 1 City Councilman Edward Villanueva said the siren goes off daily at noon and disrupts businesses around it. “It’s disrupting the communication with their customers and clients,” he said. “I believe it’s so loud that it could cause some hearing loss.”

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He took his concerns to City Hall and to the mayor, who Villanueva said has turned a deaf ear to his complaints.

“There was no explanation as to why it needed to be tested daily,” he said.

A city spokesperson explained the siren was repaired after a year of being out of order. The siren is used as part of the city's emergency plan and controlled by dispatch, and the city chooses to test it daily.

It is set to be heard within a 2 1/2 mile radius. The spokesperson also said people know what to do if it goes off during a real emergency.

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“Most people, I think, these days get their information via smart phone or a new technology,” Villanueva said. “I’m not totally sure that this is an effective way to communicate a potential threat or a weather threat to the public.”

Justin Garza, who works next to the siren, said he was scared the first time he heard it and often sees customers get startled when they first hear the siren.

“I have no clue what it was. I honestly would not know what to do if it was an actual needed reason for going off. I wouldn’t have an idea,” Garza said.

While the siren might be a source of controversy in Helotes, a few miles away in Boerne it is another story. There, a siren always blares at noon. It became so ingrained in city history, when it went offline several years ago, residents lobbied to get it back.

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