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Emergency shelter construction slated for 2012

NATCHEZ — Two hurricane seasons from now, Natchez should be prepared to shelter its own citizens and visiting evacuees from dangerous storms.

Construction on a storm shelter near Natchez High School should begin in early 2012 with the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, Adams County Emergency Management Agency Director Stan Owens said.

Under the restrictions of the grant, the shelter must be on school property and must be available to become a Red Cross hurricane evacuation shelter if needed.

Beyond those requirements, the schools could use the building however they choose.

The approximately 12,000 sq. feet building will be funded largely through federal and state dollars.

The county and school district have debated the idea of building the shelter using a $3.25 million FEMA 361 grant for almost a year, but Owens said the project is now on track.

Five percent of the costs must be a local match — approximately $162,500 — of either money, land value or construction costs.

The value of four acres of land near the David Steckler Multipurpose Center was appraised at $50,000 an acre, which will contribute to the county’s 5-percent match.

Owens said the remaining approximately $15,000 required to fulfill the match will likely be spent in construction costs.

“We’ll probably be doing some ground work,” Owens said.

Architecture Engineering Design & Development Plus, a firm based in Laurel, has already signed a contract to build the shelter, Owens said.

However, Owens said the architecture firm will not charge the county for any preliminary expenses if the project does not get off the ground.

FEMA has preawarded the county $270,000 to begin the planning stages of the project, but Owens said the county has not yet spent any money.

Owens said the county has to complete one more step to review the application that has been approved by the state before FEMA finalizes the project.

After the county coordinates construction and facilitates funding, the building maintenance and utilities would be the responsibility of the school district.

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