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FEMA shelter nears approval

NATCHEZ — The Adams County hurricane super shelter is on its final step of approval.

The Natchez Planning Commission approved Thursday the site plan for the $3.25 million FEMA 361 shelter that will be located near the Steckler Multi-purpose Building at Natchez High School.

The plans will now be sent for approval from FEMA, which Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said could take one to three months.

The planning commission’s approval was contingent upon the city engineering department’s approval of the final revised plans.

The shelter, which will be able to withstand the equivalent of an F5 tornado and be self-sufficient for 72 hours, was first approved by FEMA in 2010.

The Natchez-Adams County School Board passed a resolution transferring two acres to the county to build the shelter.

FEMA is providing 95-percent of the funding for the shelter through a grant, but the county is required to provide a 5-percent match, or $162,000, for the project.

The county is aiming to make its portion of the match with in-kind contributions, mainly through providing the land for the shelter.

The shelter will be a 10,000-square-foot building with bathrooms, a kitchen area and equipment rooms to house a generator and electrical equipment.

Owens has said most of the shelter will be a big, open space with eight columns to stabilize the building for 250 mph winds it will be built to withstand.

While the federal funding does not allow the county to install showers and kitchen appliances in the building, Owens said the restrictions do not bar the county from installing the necessary plumbing and electrical infrastructure for those things, and the school district can install them if it so chooses.

Owens said the kitchen would be built so that appliances can be installed in the future. He said the Steckler building has showers, and the school has kitchen facilities.

“We have those other facilities on-site, so we don’t need to make those expenditures right now,” Owens said.

In other news from the planning meeting:

•The commission approved updating the city’s development code and an ordinance to reflect the adoption of the International Code Council’s current building and construction codes.

The international code does not affect the current code update the city is doing through consultant and former City Planner Phil Walker, City Planner Frankie Legaux said. She said it is simply a date change to reflect that the city will incorporate the most current international codes into its development code.