Storm Shelter Project Shelved in Mississippi

September 6, 2013

The Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen has dropped plans to pursue a $3.4 million grant to build a city storm shelter which would have doubled as a gymnasium.

Citing budget concerns, aldermen voted 5-1 Tuesday night to abandon the project.

The Mississippi Press reports that the city has spent $184,000 on architectural fees for which it received $154,000 in reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Officials said the remaining city match would have ranged somewhere between zero and $35,000.

Mayor Connie Moran and Grants Administrator Carolyn Martin said by opting out of the project, the city will now have to return the $154,000 in funds to FEMA.

Aldermen were concerned with the operational costs for the facility and a requirement of the grant which states that any construction not completed by Aug. 11, 2014 would have to be paid for by the city.

The city originally received the grant 3-4 years ago, Moran said. The facility was to have been built on the site of the softball fields at Gay Lemon Park.

“We are cheating our public out of facilities they deserve,” Moran said.

Earlier operational estimates for the facility were said to have been an estimated $60,000 – $20,000 for utilities, $30,000 for insurance, and $10,000 for coaches and supplies.

Parks & Leisure Director Geri Straight also estimated the cost to outfit the building as a gymnasium at $48,000, which would purchase bleachers, basketball goals and other furnishings.

For Alderman Jerry Dalgo, the annual operational costs and the potential construction costs to the city should the project go past Aug. 11 of next year, were a “deal breaker.”

“We don’t have the money,” he said. “The city is in a very, very difficult situation which we’re trying to dig our way out of.”

Moran had wanted board approval to seek bids from contractors to see what time frame would be required to complete the project.

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