Westover to build community storm shelter

Published 5:39 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

Westover recently received two grants to build a storm shelter for residents of the community, said Mayor Mark McLaughlin.

The total cost of the project is $150,000, he said.

The grants came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from Shelby County. FEMA’s grant was worth $120,000, while Shelby County’s grant gave Westover $24,000. The other $6,000 needed came from Westover’s general fund.

McLaughlin said a site for the shelter has been chosen behind Westover’s town hall and park. The site is being surveyed, but once that’s done, building will begin, he said.

“We’re well on the way now,” he said. “It should be built pretty quickly.”

McLaughlin expects to see the shelter up within six months, likely by the end of this year.

The sooner the better, he said.

“We have a lot of residences that don’t have basements or places to go in a storm,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of big storms recently.”

Jeanne Champion Fisch, a member of Westover’s town council who also spearheaded the storm shelter effort, said most residents of Westover lived in one-story houses without basements or in manufactured homes.

Westover was able to get its grant money much faster than usual, Fisch said.

“We were so fortunate. We were able to get a grant in six to eight months with FEMA, and that normally takes about 18 months to two years,” she said. “We were just so ecstatic; we couldn’t believe it. I was dancing up and down.”

McLaughlin said the storm shelter was a natural extension of the community’s March 2007 installation of a weather siren. The shelter will be built close to the siren, he said.

“We thought, ‘We’ve got the weather siren. Now can we do about a place for people to go?'” he said.

The shelter, which will be a freestanding building, will be able to hold up to 160 people, he said.

The town council is just concerned with keeping Westover’s citizens safe, McLaughlin said.

“Now that we’ve got the grants, we’re really excited about being able to build a facility where people can be safe,” he said.