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Bids for FEMA 361 storm shelter higher than expected

NATCHEZ The 10,000-square foot storm super shelter Adams County officials have been working toward building for the last four years could cost the county more than originally planned.

Bids for the FEMA 361 storm shelter came in this week, and both companies that bid — Hanco of Hattiesburg and Paul Jackson Company of Brookhaven — submitted bid packages of approximately $3.6 million.

The estimated cost for the storm shelter was $3.25 million, of which the Federal Emergency Management Agency would fund 95 percent with a grant. The county plans to provide the remaining 5 percent of the project with a match contribution of $162,500 in in-kind services, and the project had already received a $100,000 credit for the land on which the shelter will be constructed.

The building will be meant to serve short-term sheltering need, and will be able to withstand an F5 tornado and be self-sufficient for 72 hours.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said the company managing the project, AEDD-plus, would be drafting a recommendation letter for which bid it recommended the county accept.

That recommendation would include alternates in the bid packages that can help the county whittle down the price.

“There were a lot of alternates in these bids, things like if the county would do some demolition that would deduct some of the ins and outs, and going through those will be part of our justification to the board (of supervisors) for what bid to award should the board elect to award a bid,” Owens said.”

The supervisors will meet Monday for a bid hearing for the project, and supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said he believes the discussion will involve how to drive the cost of the project down.

“The use of alternates and possibly other tweaks that can be done to get the cost down a little bit will be part of the discussion,” Grennell said. “I think the county is probably going to end up getting it done, but I think that if we will be looking at less than $100,000 in it, I think it will probably be worth it.”

Grennell said the shelter would be worth the cost because it can fill a need for those fleeing storms from out of the area and for local residents.

“We were expecting 78 mile-per-hour winds to hit Adams County during Hurricane Katrina, so the board of supervisors — based on that forecast — had to issue a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes for residents here in Adams County,” he said. “We need a shelter that is going to be a true, safe shelter for our residents here, and we hope we don’t have another one of those weather events again, but weather phenomena tends to repeat itself.”

The supervisors do not have to award the bid, but if they do Owens said the project has a 425-day construction period, meaning a likely completion date in late 2014.

The shelter would be located near the Steckler Multipurpose Building at Natchez High School — the grant funding the construction requires it to be in close proximity to a school campus — and during non-evacuation events the Natchez-Adams County School District would have access to the building and would maintain it.