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Carl Junction city administrator says emergency manager showing implied disregard for safety of citizens

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A controversy surrounding a Carl Junction city emergency manager's decision not to sound the storm sirens during last Friday's storms appears to be resolved.

City officials say Bill Dunn followed the policy in place at the time.  However, after receiving complaints from citizens city council voted to make changes to the policy, but Dunn disagreed with those changes.

Following a special meeting Thursday, the Carl Junction mayor says despite Dunn's recent comments, he will continue as the emergency manager.

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City officials say policy was followed last Friday after outdoor storm sirens in Carl Junction were not sounded.  The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of Jasper County, including Carl Junction, based on only Doppler indicated rotation.

Following the May 22, 2011 tornado, city leaders decided at the time the sirens should only be sounded if there's a funnel cloud or a tornado confirmed by storm spotters.  That decision was made in an effort to try to cut down on the number of false alarms.

After Friday's storms Carl Junction decided to change the policy back to the way it was before the Joplin-Duquesne tornado, and the emergency manager thinks that is a mistake.

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On Friday, May 31, local media relayed the National Weather Service tornado warning.

"They kept saying 'you're going to have softball sized hail, you're going to have high winds, you're going to have heavy rains, you're going to have tornadoes,'" says Carl Junction's Fire District Chief and City Emergency Manager Bill Dunn.

Dunn sent 14 storm spotters out in the area.

When the storm passed - "absolutely no hail," says Dunn.  "If there was any wind it wasn't here, and no funnels."

Dunn says sounding sirens would have been useless.  He believes the National Weather Service's tornado warning was already a waste.

"I've seen many times when they've issued a tornado warning, nothing happened - wasn't even cloudy," says Dunn.

Again, Dunn says none of his 14 storm spotters saw a funnel or tornado on Friday, therefore, no storm sirens went off.

City Administrator Steve Lawver says several residents called to complain.

"If we fail to make that warning there may be some liability in that," says Lawver.

In a meeting Tuesday night the Carl Junction city council members unanimously decided to change the policy to now sound storm sirens whenever there's a Doppler indicated tornado, or if there is a threat of winds 70 miles an hour or greater.

"I think that the technology today that the meteorologists, the National Weather Service has, even the local TV stations, I think the technology is vastly superior to what it was when storm spotters were established a hundred years ago," says Lawver.

The council also increased the number of people authorized to sound the alarm.  Previously, only the fire chief could authorize the alarm.  Now, the fire chief, police chief, assistant police chief, mayor and the city administrator.

Now, the emergency manager is in hot water because of recent comments about the changes in policy.

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The city's administrator wrote an e-mail to council members that following the decision to change the procedures, Dunn said he "would not send out his tornado spotters".

The city administrator says Dunn's response is "damaging to the city and the trust that the citizens have in this administration to provide emergency management services to the citizens."

"So we have a couple of new council members that don't like what I'm doing," says Dunn.  "That's their prerogative.  I could care less."

Lawver says Dunn is showing implied disregard for the safety of citizens.

The city council held a special meeting at city hall Thursday evening and the Carl Junction mayor tells us the meeting went well and despite Dunn's recent comments, he will keep his job as emergency manager.

The mayor says he and a number of officials will meet to hammer out new policy details for soundings the sirens.  Until then they will stay on the current plan.

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