Low bid OK’d for countywide storm shelters
by Jennifer Cohron
May 31, 2013 | 2181 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Walker County Commission awarded the bid for its proposed community shelters to Aqua Marine Enterprises on Tuesday.

According to its website, the firm is based in Danville, Ala., and has been manufacturing safety shelters since 1995. Its bid for construction of a single shelter was $53,895.

The next lowest bidder, Survive-A-Storm Shelters, was approved last July to build a storm shelter in the Thach community. The commission rescinded the decision one month later because certain specifications mandated by the state were not on the original bid sheet.

Red tape, specifically regarding which agency has oversight of the process, slowed installation of storm shelters across the state after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation last April that assigned oversight of prefabricated storm shelters to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

“In the middle of the game, they changed the rules,” Chairman Billy Luster said during Tuesday’s called meeting. “That was something that happened on the state level. It was out of our control.”

In January, the commission voted to accept funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the construction of 20 storm shelters that will be scattered across the county.

The shelters are expected to accommodate up to 100 people.

According to earlier reports, each prefabricated safe room will be approximately 50 feet long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet high. The shelters will include an eight kilowatt generator and will be able to withstand 250-mile-per-hour winds.

Walker County E-911 Director Roger Wilson, who is handling the grants for eight of the shelters, said the projects will have to be completed by spring 2015.

The county is responsible for 25 percent of the cost. Wilson said in-kind services and property values will be counted toward the approximately $13,500 the county will owe on each shelter.

“For the eight that I have, the match part is already worked out,” Wilson told commissioners.

Wilson fielded several questions concerning the storm shelters during the discussion.

Commissioner Keith Davis noted the absence of Walker County EMA director Johnny Burnette twice during the meeting.

He pointed out that the EMA director is one of five staff members given a spot on each agenda to issue reports to the commission.

“I’m trying to recall in my memory the last time our EMA director was present,” Davis said. “I believe he works for this commission, and I believe he should be present at meetings, especially when we’re going over items that he’s in charge of. I just want to make that noted and ask that we send him a letter stating such.”