FEMA 361 shelter money approved

Published 12:06am Saturday, January 18, 2014

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s taxpayers won’t have to pick up the difference in cost overrun for its long-in-the-works FEMA 361 storm super shelter.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said he received word Thursday the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved an additional $169,641 for the project, a 10,000 square-foot shelter capable of withstanding an EF5 tornado that will be located near the Steckler Building at Natchez High School.

Efforts to build the shelter — originally funded with $3.25 million in shelter funds released after Hurricane Katrina — began in 2008, but delays at the local level to the start of construction led to an inflation of project’s cost as the price of materials needed rose. When bids were submitted last fall, they were approximately a half-million over budget.

After working with the engineering and construction firms, Owens said the cost of the project was reduced by approximately $340,000 through value engineering. The Adams County Board of Supervisors committed to the new price of $3,419,641 late last year on the condition the county’s emergency management department would ask FEMA to fund the overrun in costs.

If the county had not committed to the extra funds, the project would have likely died due to expiration of timelines tied to the federal funding.

“I felt optimistic about it the whole time,” Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said. “(County Administrator) Joe Murray and I had met several months ago with Robert Latham, the head of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and while he couldn’t guarantee it at the time, he basically told Joe and me we would get the money for the 361 shelter.”

The county still has to meet a five percent match on the project, which will come to approximately $171,000 after the new funds are added.

Owens said the county’s road department will be providing dirt and some manpower for the project, which should meet the match requirements.

“We should be able to make that up with in-kind services,” he said. “The man hours, the dirt provided and the equipment usage, all of those things are allowable (as in-kind matches) under FEMA’s guidelines.”

One pre-construction meeting for the shelter has already taken place, and Owens said he plans to schedule another one with the engineering firm, AEDD-plus, and the contractor, Paul Jackson and Sons, in the next two weeks.

If everyone is on the same page at that time, Owens said the project could be given the notice to proceed.

If everyone is ready, the project could break ground in mid-February, he said.

Grennell said he is happy the shelter will finally be available in the event of a storm for the students at Natchez High School, which he characterized as in “glass boxes.”

“I am just glad to be able to get that shelter for the people of Adams County,” he said.

“If we are faced with any type of potential catastrophic weather that can affect the citizens, especially people who live in mobile homes that cannot withstand winds of 70 miles per hour, it will provide those people with a shelter that can protect them.”

Under the plan presented by FEMA, the shelter will be maintained by the Natchez-Adams County School District and will be available for community use.