By Dave Fidlin
It is steeped in history. But the approximately half-dozen households living in close proximity to it want it silenced — or at least used less frequently.
The Union Grove Village Board on Aug. 22 discussed, but took no action on the long-standing tradition of sounding a siren at noon and 9 p.m. within the community.
Five residents living near the siren attended the meeting and wanted a deeper understanding of why it goes off twice daily and what might be done to silence it.
For longtime residents, the siren is a part of life in Union Grove. But Village President Steve Wicklund said he does understand why people who are newer to the community might have questions on its use.
“We had a few members of the community that live near or close to the sirens, and they wanted to gauge the village’s interest in turning them off,” Wicklund said in an interview with the Westine Report, explaining why the siren was placed on the most recent board agenda.
The nearly half-dozen attendees had reportedly inquired about having the siren issue placed on a future ballot for a referendum. Wicklund, however, said the board would need to hear from a more vocal majority before entertaining such a scenario.
“It’s going to take a lot more than five people at this point,” Wicklund said of the siren. “The community really loves it. “For whatever reason, they love having this noon and 9 horn.”
With regard of taking the matter to the ballot box, Wicklund said, “If it would go to referendum, I don’t think it would get the outcome they wanted. But I do understand their grievance since they live right by it.”
Union Grove’s ongoing use of a noon and 9 p.m. siren has periodically gauged interest from people outside the village because it is an anomaly.
Wicklund said the practice of sounding it twice daily goes back to a time long since passed.
“All of the businesses downtown would close for lunch at the noon hour and then reopen again at 1,” Wicklund said. “It also would help with the local factory. There was once a sauerkraut factory.”
The 9 p.m. siren, meanwhile, served an entirely different purpose. It functioned as a mechanism for alerting residents of the village’s curfew.
The sirens also have, and continue to be, a test for other purposes. In the past, it was an opportunity to gauge the siren system used to alert local volunteer firefighters.
In the event of an actual fire, Wicklund said the siren would sound and have a specific number of toots, based on the severity of the blaze.
Today, the siren also is used to test Racine County’s tornado warning systems when there is severe weather.
This is not the first time residents have inquired about having the siren silenced. Once before, a small number of residents successfully bent the board’s ear and were able to convince them to have it silenced after submitting a petition.
“Two weeks later, the town was angry and came to the board meeting and said, ‘Turn it back on,’” Wicklund said. “There was a lot of public pressure.”