New Albany, MS -New Albany has many attributes that make it a good place to live and work, but one feature lacking is community emergency storm shelters.
New Albany Junior Aldermen, who mirror the actual city board, are working on projects to present to that board at their March meeting. One of those projects involves shelters.
The group met with city emergency response and other officials this past week to see what options are available and what could be done.
Back in the Cold War era when the scare of nuclear war was greater, the city had at least three nuclear fallout shelters. One was in the basement of the post office, one in the basement of the courthouse and one in the lower floor of the city hall, which is now the police department.
Although technically designated for Civil Defense, the three could be used for severe weather. However, the first two have not been accessible since the early 1960s.
People have flocked to the ground floor of the police department in stormy weather for many years, but space is limited, the area used to have a tendency to flood, and while officials allowed people to stay, they often left behind litter and other items.
People have also gone to the hospital in times of severe weather, but BMH officials discourage that because it interferes with patient care, presents something of a security risk, and parts of the hospital really are not rated to serve as a shelter for the public.
North Pontotoc School and the City of Tupelo have added shelters to hold large groups, but those were largely paid for with grants. Somewhat paradoxically, the federal government tended to not award such grants until after a community has been struck by a disastrous storm.
At the meeting, officials told the students about possible funding and structural requirements for shelters. Considerations include location, size and funding, for instance.
The New Albany school district’s master plan calls for the construction of a new high school building on Hwy. 15 North in about six or seven years and that building will be required to have shelter space sufficient for students and staff. This still does not address shelter for the general public, however.
A few businesses here do have shelters for employees and some Union County communities have limited shelters in the area of their volunteer fire departments. Private shelters that can be buried or built above ground or inside a structure are readily available in a variety of sizes and prices from a couple of thousand dollars on up.
That still does not help the general public when they may be caught away from their home or shelter when severe weather strikes.
Members of the public comment on the need for a shelter from time to time, but there has been no concerted effort to support using tax money for shelters.
The March 3 report from the junior aldermen could bring more public awareness that could lead to action.
More about the community shelter: https://www.nemiss.news/students-investigate-shelter-need/emergency shelter, Junior Aldermen, New Albany, Union County