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Oktibbeha County awaiting potential storm shelter grant


Carl Smith



Oktibbeha County supervisors should know in three or four months if the county will receive a significant federal grant for construction of a domed-roof storm shelter on Industrial Park Road. 


Conceptual plans for the structure, a 20,000 square-foot facility near Rackley Oil Company's location, are working through a FEMA grant application process. Project manager Broaddus and Associates and JBHM Architects told supervisors Tuesday they are now awaiting approval after receiving a tentative "OK" in a prior pre-application submission. 


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


Supervisors did not approve a contract for services with the organizations Tuesday after the board handed County Attorney Jackson Brown the lengthy document at the table. The board is expected to take action on the matter in its next meeting after a full legal review. 


The roughly building has an estimated $3 million price tag and should temporarily hold 4,000 residents at 5-square-feet per person during dangerous weather incidents. If approved, the county would receive 90 percent of reimbursements from the federal government and be on the hook for 10 percent - about $300,000 - of the total project. 


The design of the structure, however, is not for long-term usage, like hurricane shelters that have stronger reinforcements and more expensive price tags. 


Supervisors said they supported the project but wanted the facility to be accessible to the community for other uses besides weather-related events. Representatives from both companies said the facility could be used by Starkville Park Commission and as a minor community gathering place. Jim Britt, Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency director, said emergency personnel and first responders would hold training sessions at the facility throughout the year. 


Britt also hinted that E-911 facilities could be built next to the storm shelter as other construction grants are available. Enough room is at the site to facilitate such future construction. 


Finding a new home for OCEMA has become a much-discussed topic by supervisors in the past year. The agency's current home at Oktibbeha County jail hit its capacity almost as soon as OCEMA moved into the facility, Britt told The Dispatch last year. 


District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, who serves as the county board's president, previously said OCEMA could move into the county education building if Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District leaders did not have use for the building after 2015's state-mandated merger. 


The county could also move offices that serve its governing body into the facility. 


The building's long-term use is still not yet identified by incoming school leaders.  


SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway, who will lead the consolidated district, previously said the district could utilize space at the new city hall facility under construction near the Oktibbeha County Annex and county education building. 


Starkville aldermen are still pursuing a $2.55 million deal that would purchase Cadence Bank's Main Street branch location for Starkville Police Department use. Starkville's city court system could, in turn, move into the new police station, thereby freeing up space for future school offices.


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



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