The Cold War has finally ended in Springfield. But Springfield residents do not have nuclear brinkmanship or glasnost diplomacy to thank. Nor can they attribute its end to stirring oratory or exhortations to tear down walls and such.
Instead, it was the simple request of a township official to remove objects he thought were at best trash and at worst public health hazards.
This month, department of public works employees and representatives from the Office of Emergency Management removed the four remaining air raid sirens affixed to poles on Township streets. The sirens' original purpose was to warn citizens of nuclear and other possibly Soviet-related emergencies.
"They've been up since the '50s or '60s," Springfield Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator Scott Seidel said. "They were designed to alert the population when the attack came."
The sirens had different sounds that were meant to give different messages depending on what anti-American activities the likes of Khruschev, Castro and Mao were attempting.
"They were never used for real," Seidel said. "But they were tested."
The security came at a cost. The sirens ran on telephone lines, and were connected to a control console at the police department. Maintenance was expensive, and they became less needed after the collapse of the USSR and the invention of the fax machine, e-mail, cell phones, text messages, etc. The phone lines were disconnected, but four out of the seven sirens remained. And the sirens, originally designed to keep the public safe, ironically became public health threats.
"It's a mechanical device up on a pole," Seidel said. "If one of them rusted and fell down, it would be a disaster."
Recently, Springfield Township Committee member Marc Krauss took note of the sirens while driving around.
"I called John Cottage at the Office of Emergency Management and asked him if they still worked," Krauss said. "He laughed."
Action, Krauss decided, needed to be taken.
"They were an eyesore to the community landscape," Krauss said.
Public Works director Ken Homlish and other government workers disassembled the existing sirens. Two of the sirens came down in pieces and two came down intact. Krauss said the working sirens will be offered for sale on the municipal property auction site govdeals.com.