Commission opts to build 1 shelter

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2014

Commissioners agreed Wednesday to move forward with one, federal-grant funded shelter for county employees.

In an hour-and-a-half long, special-called meeting, the group – which also included county emergency management agency director Susan Harris, a state EMA representative and the county maintenance supervisor – discussed how to best spend the county’s money. The grant, which is funded by FEMA, requires a 25 percent match.

At its last meeting, the commission and EMA debated   whether or not to construct two shelters. Harris had presented three options to spend the $125,000 grant – two of which consisted of two shelters and a third, a large 144-person capacity shelter. Each would serve as the EMA’s command center during storms and disasters.

“What we need is something that can hold a large number of people,” Harris said. “Feasibly, there are about 100 to 150 on site at one time, and those people will need a place to go if a disaster strikes while they’re (at the county administration building.)”

Chairman Bill Godwin said the county must look at the numbers “to provide the best for our money.”

“It’s the most feasible for the (shelter) building to be close to the admin building, as well as the communication tower,” Harris said, speaking of the radio tower located in the admin building’s courtyard. “During the last major disaster, the only communication that would work was a linc, which runs off that tower.”

Godwin asked about constructing a dual-purpose center that would allow for use by other departments and for educational events.

Valarie Wallace, state EMA representative, said FEMA “frowns on those projects.”

“Again, we have to look at what is the best use of the funds we have available,” Godwin said.

Wallace told the commission that cash isn’t the only option for a matching fund.

“There are other ways to make that match, namely in-kind work,” she said. “We can get creative. You can always withdraw from the grant if bids come in and the county can’t afford the project.”

Harris’ proposal calls for a 12-foot by 60-foot, 144-person, FEMA-compliant, solid concrete shelter with a bathroom and shower and a WeatherWarn notification system, which would allow for employee and department notification of inclement weather. Total cost is projected at $168,400 – with a cost to the county at $36,260 after FEMA reimbursements.

“You can always scale the project back, too, if the cost is too high,” Wallace said.

Commissioners voted to construct the new shelter between the two wings of the county administration building.

“The match is less on that option than the others, but it’s large enough to get all of our people in,” said Commissioner Joe Barton.

The application deadline is Jan. 29, and it could be up to a year before FEMA approves the project and construction begins.