Thursday, December 17, 2020

Bond Issue Proposed for Student and Resident Storm Shelters

Voters in the Sallisaw school district will decide March 2 whether to pass a $3.5 million general obligation bond that would allow for the construction of storm shelters at four city schools.

The decision was made during a special school board meeting Monday night, during which the board also voted 3-0 to hire Stephen H. McDonald & Associates of Norman as the school district’s financial consultants on the project. 

Sallisaw Public Schools Superintendent Randy Wood said Thursday that if voters approve the bond issue, construction of the shelters could begin as soon as 60 days later, but he cautioned: “We are just in the beginning stages of this.” 

“In early January I will post information about the tax’s impact (and the actual millage rate increase) on people,” he said. 

The storm shelters are made possible by a 75 percent grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. School districts provide the remaining 25 percent of the funding, but Wood noted that FEMA does not pay for “anything that won’t protect you,” such as brick, flooring, drop ceilings, carpeting or other additions. Those projects would all be on the school district’s dime. The shelters end up being basically 50-50 projects when it’s all said and done, Wood said. 

Wood said the project grant was written nearly 10 years ago by Alice Smith of Poteau and “everybody gave up on it.” 

“We built the middle school and then eight to 10 years later, somebody up there at FEMA looked at it and decided they did have the money for it.” 

The storm shelters won’t be just for students, Wood said. They are required by FEMA to be large enough to provide 4 feet of space for each student during school hours, but when school is not in session, the shelters will be available to communities during stormy weather. 

“There’s not another storm shelter in town that I can think of,” Wood said. “This is a golden opportunity to get four safe rooms that will be around for the next 100 years. These things will be F5-rated,” he added. 

If the bond issue passes, Wood said construction is expected to take about 10 months. 

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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