City selected as site for storm shelter

Published 7:10 pm Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Brookhaven will soon be home to a storm shelter capable ofhousing 800 people in case of a natural disaster or emergency,officials said at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting.

The $3.25 million shelter will end up costing the city a 5 percentmatch, but Mayor Les Bumgarner said with the cost of the land thatwill be dedicated to the structure, the city will probably not endup paying anything. The match for the federal emergency grant wouldcome to around $162,000.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galeysaid the project is one that he has discussed at length with boththe Federal Emergency Management Agency and the MississippiEmergency Management Agency. There is a movement currently to putevacuation shelters throughout the state in order to be prepared ina situation like Hurricane Katrina.

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“They’re building these on the coast, all the way up to northMississippi,” Galey said. “It’s a good program, and I think it willbe a good thing to have.”

The shelter will be built in the field next to the pond onIndustrial Park Road, officials said, not far from the Hansel KingSports Complex. Bumgarner said the city will dedicate about 10acres to the shelter.

Galey said the mandate to open the shelter in case of an emergencywill come down from FEMA. In the mean time, though, the buildingwill be allowed to be used for other things in order to recoupexpenses.

“They’ve encouraged us to use it as much as possible to keep it inservice, but not to use it for a profit,” Bumgarner said.

In the case of an emergency, the Red Cross would operate it, Galeysaid.

Evacuees would be housed in the facility, which will have a kitchenarea, restrooms, an office and then room for evacuees, for about 36hours during disaster times. The Red Cross would also providesecurity during times of emergency, and the city would more thanlikely be reimbursed for any expenditures, Galey said.

The board voted to approve the project, as well as to advertise torequest proposals from architects for the shelter.

Galey said Pike and Copiah counties are already working towardshelters of their own, and Adams County has just begun the processas well.

While Galey was there, Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron asked himabout the number and functionality of emergency sirens in the city.Cameron had brought up the subject at the last board meeting, andexpressed interest in making sure Brookhaven is protected in caseof a tornadic emergency.

“There’s only one in Brookhaven, and it doesn’t work,” Galey toldhim. “I don’t know how old it is, but it was used by the firedepartment back when they used it to signal a certain number oftimes for the fires.”

Cameron said the city is a bigger place now and he believesmultiple sirens are needed. Galey told him Brookhaven is currentlyon hold for more sirens, after having been awarded a grant by FEMAand MEMA after Katrina.

The grant, however, was held up when Gov. Haley Barbour took awaypart of the mitigation money, Galey said.

“We were at the bottom and we lost out,” he said. “We have enoughfor the whole city if the money is ever there. It’s in thecomputer, but as much as I don’t want to say it, what it’s going totake is for there to be another major disaster so that the federalgovernment puts more money into the mitigation fund.”

The aldermen also received a visit from Brookhaven Fire Chief TonyWeeks, who told them the fire department will be taking part in astate program to provide smoke alarms to homeowners in needypopulations, as well as homeowners who are elderly or have childrenunder 14 years old.

Weeks said anyone interested in the smoke alarm program shouldcontact Central Fire Station at 601-833-3008.