CROCKER, Mo. (Aug. 2, 2014) — It’s built to withstand tornado winds of up to 250 mph, and when it’s not being used as a storm shelter, it will handle waves of hungry students coming for lunch.
Current and former Crocker R-II School District board members and staff cut a ceremonial ribbon inside their new FEMA storm shelter
Welcome to the new Crocker school cafeteria, built with $776,000 of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and adding local funds for a $2 million building project that includes not only a storm shelter/cafeteria but also a music room, kitchen, locker rooms and gym upgrades.
“All this project was done without a tax increase,” Crocker R-II School Board President Kris York said at a Saturday open-house for the project.
York said after the project was finished school staff did major inside work to get the building ready for today's open house.
“If you would have been here two weeks ago you would have thought there'd be no way they'd get the dust out of it so we could go into it,” York said.
York explained to his audience on Saturday that the project began a decade ago when former superintendent Jim Bogle tried to apply for a federal disaster grant but was denied because the Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments had failed to produce the hazard mitigation plan for which the Pulaski County Commission had paid.
The work on the hazard mitigation plan was eventually completed by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission and will lead to other school districts, not just Crocker, getting storm shelters.
York said FEMA officials had to review the project to see how large of a shelter would be needed, and then would pay three-quarters of the costs for the shelter portion of the project, but not other items added by the district.
“There's a lot of work that goes into determining how many people in a half-mile radius can actually get here,” York said.
Once students and area residents get to the shelter, however, they should be safe.
“If you read the sign outside, it is hundreds of miles per hour wind this building could take from a direct hit by a tornado... if you look at the steel beams, the concrete, it is unreal,” York said. “In Joplin, 116 people lost their lives because they had no place to go.”
The sign outside says the building can survive a 250 mph wind gust, and being hit by a 67 mph projectile vertically or 100 mph horizontally. York said the building can be opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by the firefighters.
Not everything on the project went well, however.
“One of our biggest disasters on this project — every project has one — was the locker rooms,” York said. “We discovered they were not structurally fit to build onto.”
That led to Crocker officials having to find ways to cut costs to keep the project on track and under budget, but they succeeded in doing so, and Bales Construction returned thousands of dollars in unused contingency funds which York said is almost unheard of in modern construction work.
Crocker Superintendent Gary Doerhoff said keeping costs under control happened in part because so many local residents had a hand in the work.
“Benjamin Franklin said, ‘When you dream, put on work clothes.’ People here put on work clothes,” Doerhoff said.
Doerhoff said Bales Construction personnel had the best construction foremen he'd ever seen on a job, and said most of the contractors were local.
“Mark Twain said, ‘Out of public schools grows the greatness of a nation.’” Doerhoff said.
Board members recognized numerous local community supporters, noting that some businesses gave significant markdowns on items for the school construction project and Crocker First Baptist Church permitted the school to use its parking lot during construction.
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