City mulling storm shelter for evacuees

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There are possibilities in putting up a 36-hour storm shelter inBrookhaven, but they may be outweighed by the shelter’s cost andbulk, city officials said Tuesday night.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and MississippiEmergency Management Agency approached the city, asking at one timefor a 20 percent match on the concrete building that would be usedto house refugees in times of severe weather.

However, the city is now only being asked for a 5 percent match,Mayor Les Bumgarner said. The shelter’s cost is estimated at around$3.2 million.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The proposed site, the land value of which could be counted aspart of the city’s match, is on Belt Line Road near the sportscomplex.

Bumgarner said Lincoln County is not under the flood plainsystem, but the city is. That is why FEMA and MEMA felt Brookhavenwould be the best place for the structure, which would be built ofpoured concrete walls.

“I can’t understand the benefit of a 36-hour storm buildingmyself,” Bumgarner said. “If a tornado hits, you could get hit byit going to the shelter. And if your house gets demolished, youstill could only stay there 36 hours.”

Aldermen discussed how one of the stipulations on the buildingis that chairs, cots and other furniture will not be allowed in it,which would encourage refugees to move on.

“You’re just supposed to come in, wait it out and leave,”Bumgarner said.

While the building can be used for other purposes, officialssaid they hesitate to decide anything on the shelter until they seeif and how it works out in other communities that have been askedto put up the shelters. Several cities along Interstate 55 andInterstate 49 will be putting up the shelters under the sameagreement with FEMA, officials said.

Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes pointed out that bringing inrefugees for only 36 hours might be impractical, but there could beconsiderable positives to having it.

“Could it be used locally, for instance if there’s a tornado, orwhen we have to evacuate nursing homes, where do they go?” shesaid.

Aldermen agreed to consider the situation and talk about itagain under further review.

Meanwhile, Bumgarner discussed the appointment of board membersto city committees like the planning commission.

Bumgarner said he had done some research and found that themayor is supposed to be an ex-officio member of every city board.This helps in situations where quorum needs to be met, he said.

Otherwise, the mayor is supposed to appoint new members to theboards, and aldermen are supposed to approve them, rather thanvice-versa as it has been done in the past. Bumgarner said he wouldbegin going to the meetings and monitor the attendance of boardmembers.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron asked if appointees would stillbe chosen by ward, and Bumgarner assured him that the wards wouldall be represented on the boards.

The board also had an executive session regarding a personnelmatter, but no action was taken when they came out.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell did not attend the meeting.