Last updated: September 07. 2013 1:57PM - 18 Views

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Bad weather is slowing progress on the storm shelter set to be built at Smith-Cotton High School, but not in the usual way.

Floods along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Missouri have delayed Federal Emergency Management Agency approval for building plans.

Plans were submitted March 21 by the project’s architect, Sam A. Winn, which was “on target and on time,” said John Murrell, director of the

South Central Ozark Council of Governments. The council is the project construction manager.

FEMA resources are stretched thin because of the floods, he said.

The size of the project is also a factor, said project manager Monty Smith.

“It’s a rather large project, which is probably why we are in a holding pattern,” he said.

The group is working with eight projects funded by FEMA grants. Murrell said Sedalia’s is the largest.

The 4,000-person-capacity storm shelter will serve as a cafeteria and gymnasium at Smith-Cotton.

The district won a grant from the agency that will cover about 75 percent of the estimated $3-million construction cost.

Murrell said after the district receives approval from the agency, the project will go out to bid. Under FEMA guidelines, grant-funded projects must be built within two years of the grant award, although that deadline can be extended.

“Certainly we want the project to move forward quicker than that,” he said.

Harriet Wolfe, assistant superintendent for business, finance, and buildings and grounds for Sedalia School District 200, said the delay put plans for the district to lease space on hold.

The district started to investigate leasing the Woods building in May to alleviate the space crunch when the building housing the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, an art room, and food storage is torn down to make way for the storm shelter.

The original timeline from FEMA called for the district to solicit bids on June 1 and begin construction this fall.

“They said to us at the beginning of the grant that any natural disasters would supersede any progress they would be making on the plans,” Wolfe said. “We’re just trying to be a little more proactive than reactive, and it’s a little hard to do. Obviously, we want to have things be as seamless as possible for the students’ education, and we don’t want to wait until the day before they come to school.”

The district has drawn up a proposed lease agreement for the empty Woods Building on East Broadway Boulevard, she said, but can’t move forward until construction plans are solidified.

“FEMA’s kind of controlling that. Obviously, there’s not a need to lease space if there’s no need to tear the building down,” she said.

She said the lease agreement is a sample and not a final document.

“We’re just trying to see if it’s a viable option,” she said.

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