Safe room on track for Petal Upper Elem.

By HASKEL BURNS,

After some short delays, officials at Petal Upper Elementary School are looking forward to the school’s upcoming safe room that will provide shelter for students and staff during periods of inclement weather.

Andy Schoggin, assistant superintendent of the Petal School District, told members of the district’s board of trustees Tuesday that the bid for the project came in a little higher than the previously stated cost. For that reason, district officials adjusted their share to make up the difference.

“It was only a $584 difference,” Schoggin said. “But we wanted to move forward with the PUES project and not request that minor amount of funding from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency), which could have delayed an additional 90 days for review and approval.”

In addition, board members approved a $35,834 change order that will add drop ceilings to the upper elementary’s room and the room at Petal High School.

“When we received the original bid alternate, we rejected the majority of those because we felt like we could keep the price closer to what we wanted,” Schoggin said. “Those are conventional-style structures, so a drop ceiling is definitely something that will add to the use and functionality of (the safe rooms).

“The original quote that we had was $60,000 – that was part of the bid that we rejected. So as a good faith effort, we reached out to someone who does a lot of work in that area about a reasonable quote.”

Back in February, 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 safe room at the upper elementary, as well as another room at Rawls Springs Attendance Center. With the addition of those two rooms, the total of safe rooms in Forrest County was brought up to 12.

The upper elementary’s safe room will be constructed to meet FEMA 361 stand-alone safe room guidelines to withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds.

The rooms at Petal Upper Elementary and Rawls Springs Attendance Center follow recent 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.

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.

“It’s important for us to have storm shelters that we can utilize at our schools,” Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District, said in a previous story. “Obviously it’s going to provide another layer of protection as we deal with weather events from time to time throughout the course of the school year.

“In our efforts to keep our students, faculty and staff safe, this will give us a safe place to go. In addition to that, when we’re not using it for weather, we’ll be able to utilize it for some space needs that we have in our district as well.”

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