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County working on possible storm shelter project

 

County Administrator Emily Garrard

County Administrator Emily Garrard

 

 

Carl Smith

 

Supervisors could address the lack of county-maintained, public storm shelters with federal funding in the future. 

 

Funding streams for the project, which officials said was begun by former administrator Don Posey before his retirement, could be identified 9 a.m. Tuesday during a FEMA grant update by Broaddus and Associates and JBHM Architects.  

 

Broaddus and Associates, which operates Mississippi offices in Gulfport, Jackson and Ocean Springs, provided program management services to rebuild all of the Smithville's school facilities for the Monroe County School District after an EF-5 tornado hit the community in 2011. Specifically, the company assisted the school district with a hazard mitigation grant application that generated $2.65 million for construction of an 18,000-square-foot, dome-shaped structure that serves as a severe weather shelter. 

 

A draft of Oktibbeha County's upcoming comprehensive plan lists construction of public storm shelters as a high priority. It also calls for the county to identify public sites and locations where shelters could be integrated with other services. 

 

Two types of potential shelter facilities are identified in the draft: hardened structures and domed-roof buildings. The domed buildings are about half of the construction costs as hardened structures, the draft states. 

 

County Administrator Emily Garrard said she did not have specifics on the plan -- its cost or projected capacity -- but the comprehensive plan draft estimated a potential $150-$350 per-square-foot price tag depending on the project's final design and size. 

 

As Posey worked on the project before his retirement, the county eyed construction at a parcel of land near Rackley Oil Company's Industrial Park Road location, officials said. 

 

"There's an opportunity to get 100 percent funding or an amount that's pretty close," said District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer Friday. "That's a good deal for the county. We need a county structure to assemble the public for emergencies like tornadoes, but we'd also like to take a look at its potential functions and have something that we can use on a wider basis for everyone." 

 

During times of severe weather, Starkville opens up City Hall as a storm shelter for residents and visitors who are downtown from their homes. Hardened rooms also exist in two fire departments, Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said, but are not capable of supporting many residents. 

 

Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams said the City Hall building under construction at the end of Main Street will also provide a secure place for residents. Cadence Bank's Main Street branch, if acquired by the city for police operations, is also expected to serve as another fortified position during severe weather. 

 

Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said the county's numerous volunteer fire departments are not opened to the public as storm shelters during severe weather but could serve as relief centers following disasters.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

 

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