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Shelter construction to begin

NATCHEZ — Four years after it was first proposed, construction on Adams County $3.25 million hurricane super shelter is slated to begin this fall.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which is 95 percent funding the project — has approved the plans for the FEMA 361 storm shelter, a 10,000-square foot building strong enough to survive a F5 tornado and be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours.

That means the county can now move into the construction phase, and the project’s architects, AEDD-plus, are working to put big packages together, Owens said.

“I am not rushing it because I want to get it right, but we could be turning dirt in October,” he said. “It is approximately a 14-month process from the day the first shovel turns to the day the hand us the keys.”

The shelter — which is meant for short-term evacuation rather than long-term housing — will be located near the Steckler building on the Natchez High School campus, a requirement of the federal finding. The Natchez-Adams County School district will have free access to the building except in the event of a hurricane, tornado or other evacuation event, and the maintenance of the building will fall to the school district.

County officials have previously said that allowing the school district to use the shelter in non-emergency time will ensure it will stays in working order. The federal funding does not allow for the construction of the shelter to include showers and kitchen appliances, but Owens has said it does not restrict the school district from installing them later.

The county aims to provide its 5 percent match for the project — $162,500 — in in-kind services. Owens said the project has already gotten a $100,000 credit toward that total for the land on which the shelter will be built.

Using county resources to clear the site or bring in dirt for compacting can make up the remainder of those funds, though Owens said the amount of resources the county puts into the site may be less if bids come in lower.

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