Salisbury School District Reevaluating Storm Shelter Plans

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SALISBURY - The school superintendent told KOMU 8 News Friday his district is reevaluating its plans for a community storm shelter after bids came in higher than expected.

Salisbury R-IV School District Superintendent Todd Willhite said when bids for the shelter were opened late Thursday afternoon, the lowest bids were significantly higher than $5 million. He said the school district hoped for a cost closer to $4 million.

"We did the best we could, and we missed," Willhite said.

Willhite said the storm shelter project began in January 2010 when the district started researching FEMA grants to build tornado safe rooms. That agency agreed in April to contribute up to $1.5 million toward the project. The current proposal calls for a dome-shaped gymnasium to be built between the Salisbury High School building and the school district's offices. The gymnasium would double as a shelter built to FEMA 361 standards, which set guidelines for the construction of safe rooms. Willhite said the gymnasium would have bleacher seating for up to 1,300 people. He said that combined with floor space would allow the structure to protect the entire population of Salisbury in the event of a tornado. Salisbury had a population of 1,618 as of the 2010 census.

Willhite said the district will revisit its plans to try to get the costs down.

"We're kind of back to the drawing board, trying to decide what we'll do to alter the project, but of course no decisions have been made along those lines yet," he said.

He said one of the reasons the bids were higher than the district had budgeted for is that the safe room project was budgeted in 2010. He noted it's hard to budget that far in advance. Willhite didn't rule out the possibility of downsizing the shelter, though he added the district wants to avoid doing that if at all possible.

The gymnasium section in the floor plan below is the storm shelter under consideration.

Salisbury Storm Shelter Floor Plan