County getting two shelters

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

By Scott Mims

Chilton County is getting two new community shelters to be placed in the Union Grove and East Chilton areas.
The county currently has four shelters located at Enterprise Fire Department, West Chilton Fire Department, the basement of Clanton City Hall and Maplesville. Each shelter is opened during a tornado watch and manned by volunteers during a tornado warning.
Perhaps the timing couldn’t have been better, because the County Commission’s approval to request bids on the shelters came during Severe Weather Awareness Week.
“The shelters we have in existence right now are constantly being used,” said Bill Collum, Chilton County Emergency Management Agency Director.
The initial five-year plan called for the construction of five shelters. The idea was to have a shelter within 10 minutes’ driving distance of anywhere in the county, Collum said.
But because the shelter in Clanton City Hall was not included in the plan, the end result will be even better.
“Once the two new shelters are completed, that will actually give us a better driving time than we had anticipated,” Collum said.
While the shelters are available to anyone, they are not intended to house the county’s entire population.
They are intended to provide a safe refuge for people in low-income housing.
Shelters are funded by hazard mitigation grants. The federal government funds 75 percent, and the county funds 25 percent.
“Our 25 percent can be given in in-kind services, such as site prep,” Collum said.
Lee Helms, a former AEMA director who now lives in Chilton County, has handled the grants at no charge to the county, Collum added.
The estimated combined cost for the two new shelters is about $164,000. Bids should be returned after 60 days, and the most responsive bidder will get the contract. After that, the shelters should be completed within a matter of months.
The new shelters will be located behind Union Grove Fire Department and underneath East Chilton Fire Department’s new station. The new ECFD station will be next to the current facility.
Union Grove’s will be pre-fabricated, similar to Maplesville’s. The other will be more involved, as it will be underground.
“I don’t anticipate building any others after that,” Collum said. “Not to say we couldn’t, but it’s not in the plan right now.”