Pelham OKs public storm shelters

 By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham soon could see 10 public storm shelters scattered throughout the city after the Pelham City Council voted Dec. 5 to match a grant funding the project.

During the meeting, the council voted 4-0 to pay about $150,000 to match an Alabama Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant, which will bring “half a million dollars worth of storm shelters” to the city, Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said.

Council members Karyl Rice, Mike Dickens, Steve Powell and Council President Teresa Nichols voted in favor of matching the grant. Councilman Bill Meadows abstained from voting.

The vote will bring two storm shelters each to the Pelham Senior Center, the Pelham Racquet Club, Pelham City Park, the Pelham Civic Complex and the city-owned land next to City Park currently containing the Belle Vista mobile home park.

Each shelter can hold 150 people, Murphy said.

“We are limited to where we can put them. They can only be on city-owned property,” Murphy said. “Those five places are the only property the city owns.

“That would put the shelters close to townhomes and trailer parks,” Murphy added.

During the pre-meeting work session, Powell said he initially had reservations about the project, but said a meteorologist’s comments changed his mind.

“At first, I saw this as a knee-jerk reaction to the April 27th tornadoes,” Powell said. “But I talked with a meteorologist who is very well-respected in the community, and he said shelters are important.

“I will put my thoughts with the expert’s opinion,” Powell added.

Meadows said he would have liked to have community meetings before voting on the matter. However, Murphy said the grant would be lost if the council didn’t act on it before Dec. 9.

“We’ve already gotten the grant. They are just waiting on us,” Murphy said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and y’all are just now asking questions.

“If we turn it down, it will be a travesty for our citizens,” he added. “It’s our responsibility to provide them a place to go.”

In other business, Murphy said the city scaled back its Christmas lights along major roads, such as U.S. 31, in an effort to cut back on city expenses.

“The City Council is in charge of money. When they said ‘Mayor, give us a bare-bones budget,’ that’s what I did,” Murphy said after asked about the lights by Pelham resident Vince Cottone. “If I can cut $20,000 or $30,000 in decorations, I’m going to do it.

“Those are funds we don’t need to spend. I don’t think it takes away from Christmas,” Murphy added. “We are still celebrating Christmas, we just aren’t doing it as much.”

After Murphy’s comments, Cottone said scaling back the city’s Christmas decorations was not discussed during council budget work sessions in the summer.

“No, it wasn’t,” Nichols said.