Roger Wilson, director of Walker County E-911, told members of the Walker County Commission on Monday that the Thach shelter has been completed except for some minor details.
“The septic tank is installed and hooked up. Electricity, gas and water are hooked up. If we had a tornado warning, they could open it up,” Wilson said.
Another shelter has been installed in Nauvoo. The town council is now working on getting the utilities in place, according to Wilson.
Construction of two more shelters will begin soon in Cordova and Parrish.
Wilson is overseeing 21 community shelters for the county that were approved for approximately $2.4 million in federal funding. Of that list, 13 were originally under the direction of the Walker County Emergency Management Agency.
The grant requires a 25 percent match from each community that receives a shelter. The county does not cover that expense.
While residents of Thach and Nauvoo raised their own funds, other communities have struggled to come up with their match money.
The Walker Area Community Foundation recently provided $100,000 for shelters in Cordova, Parrish, Sipsey, Argo and Eldridge.
“We’ve got some other sites that I know when I contact them, they are going to tell me the same story. These 13 were told that they didn’t have to come up with any matching money, that it was taken care of by the county commission. Of course, the previous commission and this one was told that it was taken care of. It’s not,” Wilson said.
Wilson estimated that there is currently a $300,000 funding gap for the shelters.
Terry McCullar, chief of the Thach Volunteer Fire Department, said the process for getting a community storm shelter installed was lengthy but also informative.
“Local folks need to understand what their responsibility is. When we started, we were told, ‘It’s going to cost this much money, and you’ve got this much matching money.’ That should take care of your cost. We’ll get it in and hand you the key. I can assure you, that does not happen,” McCullar said. “But we’ve worked through all that. Roger has learned some things. We’ve learned some things. If we had to put another one in, it would be in in less than a month instead of three years.”