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Grant will build community tornado shelter at Alton

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The U.S Department of Homeland Security announced last week the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a grant for the Alton School District.

Alton Superintendent Sheila Wheeler said the grant will be for $1.2 million and comes from the program for the construction of a school/community tornado shelter.

Wheeler said the Missouri Southeast Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) manages the federal dollars allocated to the grant program and has identified safe rooms in schools as a priority for grant funding.

The Alton School District will be required to match 10 percent of the project.

"We will be traveling to Jefferson City Oct. 10 to receive the grant from SEMA," the superintendent said.

Wheeler said the shelter will be built on school property and will be used by the school and the community to provide refuge during severe weather including tornadoes.

The 10 percent match for the project will come from the school's capital projects fund.

"I applied for the same grant last year and we were denied. We feel very fortunate to be accepted for the grant and be eligible for the 10 percent match," she said.

The shelter will be built just north of the high school in an open field area so the parking lot in front of the high school can be used for parking when the shelter is needed.

Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren said this is a great grant. "This is something that not only the Alton School District can use but the entire community," Warren said. He added it was just a year ago a strong storm blew through the county causing a great amount of damage especially in the southern portion of the county.

"We had roads, bridges and trees suffer a great amount of damage at the end of September last year. Fortunately there was no loss of life. This shelter is something local residents need and will use," he said.

The building will serve as a multi-purpose room/gym that will be used by the school's music and drama departments as well as elementary P.E. classes and team practices.

She said the design of the shelter must be coordinated with FEMA to make sure that the construction of the building is in accordance with FEMA guidelines.

The Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University helped develop the federal guidelines by studying the damage left by nearly 100 storms to learn what withstands tornadoes.

Wheeler said a time-line for use of the grant money is 2 1/2 years. She said other schools that have received the grant have taken up to a year to advertise for bids. The superintendent said several different things have to take place before the bids for the project are awarded.



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