Wheaton tornado brings FEMA shelter into light

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Next steps considered after $1 million bond issue approved

More than three years ago, the taxpayers in Wheaton approved for a $1 million bond issue for a new FEMA shelter.

The Wheaton school district approved a general obligation bond refunding, resulting in net savings of over $86,000.

The bond resolution authorized the sale of $935,000 in bonds, at an average interest rate of 2.33 percent. Series 2007 bonds carried an average interest rate of 4.2 percent by comparison. The difference reduced the future interest expense to the district, and taxpayers, by $86,423.

Lance Massey, Wheaton superintendent, said the bond issue was presented to utilize local money in conjunction with FEMA dollars to construct a shelter area for the Wheaton school district.

“By passing the bond issue, it committed the Wheaton share of that construction project,” he said. “We have been waiting on FEMA/SEMA to get the funding.”

Massey said the money comes from the federal government, but the state is the entity that gives the money out locally.

“Our intention was to build a practice facility or gymnasium that would take the place of our current gymnasium,” he said. “We would have to do that in stages. Additionally, we want to make the new facility the FEMA safe room.”

Massey said there would be district dollars added to that to get the biggest facility through FEMA as possible.

“With the tornado that came through Wheaton on April 30, we were extremely lucky that it missed the district,” he said. “How many times should we press our luck.”

Massey said he feels extremely fortunate that the district did not receive damage during that tornado, but those tornados happen in southwest Missouri on a regular basis.

“We would like to figure out a way to keep our students safe,” he said. “The storm in April really brought this need up to light again.

“It happened during the time we would have been loading busses, so we held students here at the school to keep the staff and students safe.”

Massey said he would urge local supporters to reach out to their elected officials at the county, state and federal level and try to help them understand the need that Wheaton has for a safe room.

“The closest safe rooms to us are in Cassville, Purdy, East Newton High School and Stella,” he said. “For our community, that is too far away, and I feel like we need a local safe place for our students and patrons to go to.”

Massey said he wants people to reach out to elected officials again and increase the chances of getting those FEMA dollars.

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