Groundbreaking for Safe Room held at Lake City

Thursday, May 9, 2002

A ground-breaking ceremony was held Wednesday at Lake City for a safe room shelter that will be constructed as an addition to the Craighead County Eastern District Courthouse in Lake City.

The "tornado-proof" safe room is being funded through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, in partnership with state and local government. The project received 75 percent of its funding from FEMA, and both state and local governments will contribute 12.5 percent each, Craighead County Judge Dale Haas said.

Construction of the $160,680 structure began last week.

The building itself is estimated to cost $125,000 with the remaining cost attributed to architectural and design fees, said Craighead County Office of Emergency Management coordinator Jack Richardson.

Stuck Associates of Jonesboro was awarded the design contract. Allen Engineering of Paragould was the successful bidder for the project.

The 20-by-50 foot addition will feature heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and electrical services independent of the courthouse and will accommodate about 200 people Judge Haas said.

Restrooms are located on either side of the structure with-in the courthouse. Green said his company has experience in seismic retrofitting - building structures that can withstand "probably any wind" and to a certain extent earthquakes.

The safe room was modeled from like structures originated by a San Francisco design group, Green said. However, Richardson said the Eastern District building design was the brainchild of Texas A&M University.

"They did a lot of tornado study," he said. "FEMA published the room's specifications. The architect took them and designed using those specifications. It's a concrete block structure with every core filled with rebar and concrete. It has a concrete top. The rebar starts at the foundation and comes up all the way through the top, making a complete circle. It has a special kind of door that meets standards set for impact. Each door has an there will be no direct injury in case it swings open. This is the first project os its kind in Craighead County."

Lake City Mayor Jerry Bowman said the safe room is the second public storm shelter in Lake City.

"I think it's great to have this safe room and a storm cellar," he said. "We have one storm cellar in front of the high school we could probably put 200 people in. We've applied for funds for a second storm cellar we'll put close to West Elementary School. We're getting in good shape on our storm cellars."

Eastern District Deputy Sheriff Dewaine Malone said the building would have come in handy when a storm that included high winds and funnel clouds struck earlier this year in close proximity to the courthouse.

Completion date is estimated at 120 days.

The Lake City Police officers and Craighead County Deputies will have the keys and the safe room will be available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

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