The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 20, 2013

County storm shelters face delays

By Rebecca Croomes
news@athensnews-courier.com

— A mountain of red tape can’t protect anyone from a tornado. It’s a big factor, however, in stopping the construction of eight community storm shelters with funds received after the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak.

Limestone County EMA Director Rita White said financial troubles and miscommunication have lengthened the time it will take to design and build the shelters.

“It’s very frustrating, because we’d love to have two of them already built,” she said. “We have done everything we can to try and move it along.”

At Monday’s Limestone County Commission meeting, county engineer Richard Sanders told commissioners a shelter planned adjacent to the Oak Grove-Thach fire department was over budget, and the bidding process would have to start over.

White said the money from the FEMA federal hazard mitigation grant did not meet the projected cost of the final product. A rise in costs of building materials has left her department scrambling to locate funds. Additionally, White said the grant didn’t include money for workers to meet safety requirements as mandated by FEMA.

“There were several things like (the building regulations) that were put into place since we applied for the grant,” she said. “(There are) a lot of requirements on those shelters.”

Additional funding for the Ardmore location has been secured, White said, but the department is waiting on approval for additional grant funding before again bidding out the shelters. She said they hope to do that within the next two months.