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The Lake News Online
  • Morgan County R-II District approved for storm shelter grant

  • The Morgan County R-II Board of Education and Administration will be holding public hearings in January after receiving word Dec. 12 that the school district's grant application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance in building a storm shelter was approved.
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  • The Morgan County R-II Board of Education and Administration will be holding public hearings in January after receiving word Dec. 12 that the school district's grant application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance in building a storm shelter was approved.
    According to Superintendent Dr. Joyce Ryerson, the grant will provide $1.8 million toward the construction of a facility at the main campus in Versailles large enough to hold everyone at the location and be able to withstand an F-4 tornado.
    At its Dec. 16 meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept the grant funding and to utilize the storm shelter as a performing arts building.
    "This has provided a sense of hope that a safe structure will be available to ensure our children’s security and will address a district-identified long-standing need for a Performing Arts Center," stated Ryerson in a press release.
    District officials are scheduled to attend an orientation meeting on the grant Dec. 20 in Jefferson City.
    The board will also begin looking for an architect to develop a design for submission to FEMA.
    The structure has to meet exact specifications from FEMA from the thickness of the concrete to certain types of blast doors that can withstand 200 mile per hour winds. The facility also has to have its own restroom facilities.
    With an approximate population of 1,670 including full staff and a student total of around 1,450, the building would be up to approximately 15,000 square feet, according to Ryerson.
    The board's application and its eligibility was based on campus population and subsequent required square footage.
    The district must now come up with funding to match the grant.
    Up to 75 percent of the cost of a shelter — essentially a big empty box — was eligible to be paid for by the grant.
    With the district making the building multi-purpose, the district would have to pay for extras inside the structure and the grant would not quite pay 75 percent of the cost, Ryerson said.
    A new elementary gymnasium was the other option considered for the building.
    The performing arts center has been in the district's facility for 10 years.
    When the district priced an auditorium for a 2009 bond issue that failed, the cost was around $5 million.
    A levy increase is one of the options school officials are considering to help offset the cost of construction. A bond issue would also be possible.
    The district's operating levy is currently at $2.75 per $100 of assessed valuation — the maximum allowed by the state without a vote of the people to set it higher.
    The public hearings in January will address options for how the district will match the grant as well as ideas for ways the district might best utilize current and future revenue sources, according to Ryerson.
    Page 2 of 2 - The first hearing will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7 in the Versailles Middle School Library on Hwy. 52 in Versailles. The second hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8 in the South Elementary School Library on Hwy. 5 in Gravois Mills.
    All patrons of the district are encouraged to attend and provide feedback, Ryerson said.
    The board initially applied for the Safe Shelter grant in March 2012 following deadly storms that have battered the U.S. in recent years.
    Since then, there have been several steps in the process to gaining the grant including a notice of intent to file a grant, the grant application, a timed test to ensure that all students could relocate to the proposed safe room site in under five minutes, facility surveys and investigation into funding options.
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