Two more Forrest Co. safe rooms get funding

By HASKEL BURNS,

 Funding has been approved for two more safe rooms at schools in Forrest County – one at Petal Upper Elementary and another at Rawls Springs Attendance Center – bringing the number of school safe rooms in the county to 12.

Earlier this week, Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, along with Congressman Steven Palazzo, announced the award of $1.06 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the two projects. The safe rooms will be used by staff, students and faculty in the event of inclement weather such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

“We’re very excited about that,” said Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District. “We knew it was just going to take a little bit longer, just going through some logistics and red tape, but we’ve been able to get through that.

“So we’re very excited that this is the latest phase (of safe rooms) going to the upper elementary.”

The two new safe rooms will be constructed to meet FEMA 361 stand-alone safe room guidelines to withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds. The overall cost of the rooms is expected to be $1.24 million.

These latest two rooms follow approval for rooms at Petal Primary School, Petal Elementary School, Petal Middle School, Petal High School, North Forrest High School, North Forrest Elementary School, Earl Trovillion Attendance Center, South Forrest Attendance Center, Dixie Attendance Center and Forrest County Agricultural High School.

“We’re progressing quite well (with the plans for the rooms),” Dillon said. “Of course, we’re having to dodge a little bit of the rain, but we’re still on track.

“Everything is working really smooth, and they’ve been good working around our schedule with students being present.”

FEMA is providing $9.1 million, or approximately 85 percent of the cost, to construct 10 of the safe rooms in the county. In November 2015, FEMA provided $652,000 to support preliminary work on the safe rooms, and awarded $7.38 million in July for eight of the rooms.

The rooms at Forrest County Agricultural High School and Dixie Attendance Center were funded last year.

“Providing important mitigation measures is a goal that we’ve been working to achieve for years,” Palazzo said in a statement. “I am glad to see Forrest County receive this important funding that will provide long-lasting protection for local residents.”