Purdy school officials again seek FEMA shelter

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Architect sees next funding round determined by mid-2016

After one previous unsuccessful attempt to secure funding for a storm safe shelter, Purdy school officials are preparing to enetr another application to FEMA.

Architect Brad Erwin told the Purdy School Board the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) sent out a letter indicating funding would again be available. Because Purdy developed an application with specific plans in 2014, the district can apply quickly and have an edge on others lacking similar preparation.

Based on past applications, Erwin felt the first review of applications would take place by February or March of 2016. By June 2016, FEMA would issue a list of which districts would receive consideration. Purdy reached that list in the last round, but ended up ranked as back-up to the back-up applicant and out of the running. By the end of summer, the district would have word about approval.

The process still relies on federal and state funding. This time, Erwin said, funding options may not prove as helpful as in the past. The district may need to meet a 30 percent match, rather than the traditional 25 percent match on FEMA projects.

The process would remain quite competitive. Erwin thought six districts had completed applications that would receive priority consideration. Those eligible have to come from counties that have had a disaster declaration due to severe weather, which Barry County received following flash floods in July.

Erwin showed board members several projects shepherded by Paragon, including the storm shelter for the Cassville district. Paragon developed conceptual images, worked out floor plan estimates and special arrangements to show both faculty and voters how the new buildings would alter the existing schools for the better.

"We don't have a master facility plan," said Superintendent Steven Chancellor. "We've kicked the tires on a lot of things around here. If we could see a bigger end product and chuck it into phases, we could plan better. We know when the no-tax-increase and levy increases are appropriate. Now, we're just doing the add-on approach. We're not looking at 30 years from today."

"We're not going to know what Purdy needs 30 years from now, maybe not even 10 years," Erwin said. "For 8-10 years, we can get very close. We'll look at blocking off sections, what spaces need to become, or block off sections outside."

Chancellor said the district needs to look at when it will outgrow its current footprint.

"When will this become a secondary campus and we need to build a new elementary school?" he said. "We're running out of classroom space now."

"When you hit 28-29 kids per class, you're hitting the next stage," Erwin said. "You're tight already."

As for the FEMA application, Erwin felt the district handled the process correctly in the last round.

"It would not hurt if others were making phone calls in your behalf, whoever you think would have an impact at SEMA," Erwin said. "You've shown a serious interest for the last three years. You can cover the match. You've got a great need. You are the heart of the community. You can protect the entire district in a short period. You are not spread out, like Monett. [If a storm hit here,] You'd have a worse impact than Monett."

"We passed every test," Chancellor said. "We just need them to like us."

There are no storm shelters in Purdy. An EF-2 tornado brushed Purdy on May 10, 2008, the night of high school graduation. The twister left one resident dead on the north end of town, left damage 200 yards wide and forced several hundred people to take shelter in the school.

School officials have looked at the campus layout and concluded the best location for a shelter would lie between the high school and elementary wings, allowing all of the students to centrally assemble without leaving the building.

The location, nonetheless, poses some topographic challenges on sloping ground, and it would displace a significant number of classroom heat pumps now located on the school's exterior.

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