City may be site for temp FEMA shelter

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi EmergencyManagement Agency officials have approached city leaders aboutbuilding a shelter that would house refugees for a day and a halfduring major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Mayor LesBumgarner told the board of aldermen Tuesday.

“They’ve come to us about building an above-ground shelter, andwe’re simply in the discussion stages,” he said.

Bumgarner said the shelter would house roughly 1,000 people for36 hours.

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“They would really be laying or sitting on the floor,” he said.”There’s no furniture or anything. They’d come in there for 36hours and go on.”

The proposal is simply in the discussion stage, Bumgarnerstressed, and funding still is unclear. He said he believed therewould be a 5 percent match for the city to pay toward theproject.

“We have a lot of questions about this and they haven’t answeredthem yet,” he said. “I just wanted you to know we’re in the talkingstages.”

Aldermen pointed out that sales tax goes up when evacuees arepassing through the city. Bumgarner commented that it does help tobe the first exit after the end of contraflow.

“But the Wal-Mart parking lot looked like they had Mardi Grasthere last time,” said Bumgarner, who suggested that emphasis beplaced on the fact the shelter would only be for 36 hours.

In other action Tuesday, the board discussed asking for anextension on spending grant money designated to downtown lightingand signage. Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes said the lighting andsignage committee had met, and Brookhaven Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield is trying tocontact the organization that awarded the city with the grant.

“We’re trying to extend that deadline to use that money,” shesaid. “We’d like to do a gazebo or a platform or a stage. But if wedo a structure, we want it to be in keeping with what downtownlooks like.”

Bumgarner said plans are in the works to put eight electricalboxes in Railroad Park that would allow people to set up during theOle Brook Festival or Farmer’s Market or other events heldthere.

“If we have an event that needs electricity, they can justunlock that box and they can plug in and be ready to go,” he said.”With whatever money is left, we could build a permanent structurethat will look nice and be used, something maybe with a littleshelter from the elements.”

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates also asked Police Chief PapHenderson about a situation where someone has horses living ontheir property on Williams Street. Henderson said he had talked tothe landowner, who had indicated that Bates had given thempermission to keep the horses there. When Bates said there musthave been some misunderstanding, Henderson said he would go back totalk to them about the horses again.

Meanwhile, five employees of the fire department receivedpromotions, with two to captain and three to lieutenant.

Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson questioned the process ofpromotions, asking how long someone must spend at the position offirefighter before being promoted to lieutenant. Bumgarner and FireChief Tony Weeks explained that a firefighter must passdriver/operator school through the Mississippi State Fire Academy,and then there must be an opening for the promotion.

“All these people were promoted based on time,” Bumgarner said.”There was nothing out of the line or anything. Nobody is beingskipped over.”

The board also set August 25 as the date for the public hearingon the budget, while work sessions will begin Thursday, Aug. 13 at5:30 p.m.