By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
Two county storm shelters officially opened Wednesday. One is located at the Picayune Memorial High School and the second is located at Pearl River Central High School.
Construction of three shelters in the county was funded fully with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency grants, at a cost of $2.97 million each, said Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley.
Two shelters were constructed next to schools in order to provide not only a safe place for nearby residents to take shelter, but also provide the schools with additional space they could use for activities, said Pearl River County Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith. A third shelter in Poplarville was constructed near the county fair grounds.
Manley said all three shelters are complete and ready to use.
Each building is about 10,000 square feet in size, can withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour and houses a generator, Smith said.
Picayune School Superintendent Dean Shaw said students in the Picayune school district will benefit greatly from the shelter near the high school.
Each school is asked to use the shelter near it in a manner that will allow the shelters to continue to be used as shelters. So, while shelters can be used for light school functions, no modifications can be made that would alter the building from quickly being used for shelter during an emergency.
During the Pearl River Central High School ribbon cutting, Pearl River County Board of Supervisors president Patrick Lee said the project’s success is due in part to the efforts of Manley, who ensured the project stayed on track.
Lee said he is happy the buildings have been constructed in a way that ensures they will serve their prime purpose of community safety while providing the schools with a functional venue for various functions.
“I’m elated with the way it turned out,” Lee said.
An example Lee used involved athletic events, such as football games. Since football games take place outside, they sometimes face interruption from storms. Lee said if a major storm hits during one of those games, the shelters could provide safety to the public during that time.
Pearl River County Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said the shelter will be used on a regular basis to ensure it remains operational.