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Buss also noted that a ….

Buss also noted that a structure need not be in the shape of a concrete dome, although a dome is the most efficient and strongest design for a large space. It could also be a traditional square/rectangular structure, as long as it is designed and built of material that would withstand high winds.

“It can be whatever you want it to be,” Buss said.

Board member Tom Odeen said the district needs to decide for what it might use such a building.

“Until we’re really knowing what we want to do, it’s hard to put together the application,” Odeen said.

Buss advised the Board to first determine if there is interest in pursuing a grant. If so, the district should explore its facility needs and identify priorities, and then settle on a timeline for when to build. A project would require a significant amount of local funds, as the FEMA grant will only pay the direct costs of the storm shelter. Buss said the district could wait until the second year of the 2-year grant program to go after funds.

“Let that timeline decide what year to apply,” he said.

If the district were to successfully apply, it could expect to receive a grant that would pay for 75 percent of the cost of building the safe room. There is also a provision through which “small impoverished communities” can get 90 percent of the costs covered. To meet that criteria, a community has to have fewer than 3,000 residents and have per capita income below a certain level. Buss said Loyal meets those criteria, but also would have to be above a certain local unemployment rate. That could be tricky to prove, Buss said, as there is no unemployment data for small towns, but he thinks it could be done.

“I’m pretty confident that Loyal would qualify for that,” Buss said.

FEMA would only fund a safe room of a size that would serve the local population. Buss said that is based on the number of residents within a half-mile radius of the shelter building location, as well as the number of people that would be expected to be at local businesses at a given time, and the number of students/staff at the school.

Based on his preliminary calculations, Buss said he would expect Loyal would qualify for a shelter of 10,750 square feet. At current new construction costs, and a 75 percent grant, that would mean a potential award of roughly $1.9 million. The local community would then be responsible for about $662,000 in local money to equip the space for whatever use the district decides. That could be for a library, classroom space, a gym, etc.

“It would be really whatever you want it to be,” Buss said.

The only “catch” would be that the school would have to have the structure prepared at all times for sudden community emergency use.

Buss also noted that the school could go with a bigger structure, but FEMA would only pay its portion of the size needed to serve the given population. Loyal would then have to make up the rest locally.

FEMA requires that grants be run through a municipality, so the Loyal School District would have to work with the city of Loyal. The city would actually be the formal grant applicant, but would act as a “pass-through entity” at no cost. In the Spencer case, the village of Spencer is the formal recipient.

Buss also told the Board that it has nothing to lose in at least exploring a grant possibility. Even if it applies, and its application is accepted, it could still back out with no penalty.

“It’s a tremendously flexible program,” Buss said. “You can decline the grant at any time prior to breaking ground. There’s no risk in actually pursuing it. You can decline at any time if you are awarded it.”

District administrator Chris Lindner recommended to the Board that it take a first step toward applying.

“I think we need to move on it,” Lindner said. “I think now we need to look at what are we looking at putting in there.”