Grant will help build community shelter
by Laura Johnson
The city of Jacksonville will soon benefit from federal disaster funds related to the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak.

At Monday meeting the city council approved a resolution to accept a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant in the amount of $810,801 for a community shelter. The city applied for the funds to build the safe room under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which sets aside a portion of the total disaster costs to pay for mitigation projects.

Jacksonville’s shelter will be built inside the city’s municipal courtroom at the planned public safety complex. The Jacksonville shelter will be able to hold more than 600 people, making it the largest community shelter in the county.

Though the city formally accepted the funding this week, it will be months more before construction will begin. Jacksonville Police Chief Tommy Thompson said crews are expected to begin building the complex in the fall.

Jacksonville is not the first community in Calhoun County to receive hazard mitigation funds related to the April 27, 2011 outbreak. In the past two years the fire departments in White Plains, Webster’s Chapel and Ohatchee have all received federal funding for community shelters.

The outbreak prompted officials across the county to begin looking for money to build community shelters. Though four communities secured the funding, none have finished building a shelter.

One of the communities that secured funding, White Plains, is expected to complete its shelter before 2014, according to the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.

Though the outbreak prompted officials to seek federal funding for community shelters, one Calhoun County community had already used federal disaster funds to build a community safe room.  

That city, Piedmont, had secured federal funds for a community shelter in 2009. It used $1 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a safe room at Piedmont High School. It was used during the April 27, 2011 outbreak by 310 people.

Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.
© 2013