Safe-room grant may sweeten bond issue
If the Nov. 4 bond issue passes, the Baldwin School District could receive significant funding from the federal government for putting safety first in its new facilities.
Supt. Paul Dorathy was given the go-ahead by the Baldwin School Baord Monday night to pursue a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. The school district has the chance to receive up to $2 million from the grant.
Only there’s one stipulation — the Nov. 4 bond issue must pass.
“In the end, I think you’re going to save your taxpayers some money,” Dorathy said to the school board members. “I think you’ll end up dropping the district’s portion of the cost. I see this as a win-win situation for the district.”
The school board agreed and told Dorathy he had permission to begin the first steps in applying for the grant.
“Mr. Dorathy, this definitely seems like something worth pursuing,” said Alison Bauer, school board president. “I think you have the big nod to go ahead with that.
“I think this would be another positive about the bond issue,” she said. “I think a lot of people would be pleased we are going in this direction.”
Deb Ehling-Gwin, Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center principal, also gave Dorathy the nod for the grant Monday. Dorathy chuckled and then agreed with Bauer about helping the bond issue.
“This is a huge incentive for the public to pass this bond now,” he said.
The grant would be in conjunction with the Douglas County Emergency Management, but is part of the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The money would be used to construct a safe room in the new BESPC and the new auditorium. The grant would pay for 75 percent of the cost of the safe room and the district would pick up the other 25 percent, which is already money in the bond issue.
The Eudora School District was awarded grant funding for its new elementary school. Baldwin could be a part of the grant also if voters approve the bond in less than three weeks.
“We have the opportunity to receive a grant to build a safe room in both the primary center and the performing arts center,” Dorathy said. “We would be able to receive a grant to pay for those. That is a new project by FEMA to provide grants to school districts. It’s significant dollars. I think Eudora is building a safe room in their new elementary school and they received a $560,000 grant to do that.”
Micky Davis and Teri Smith, representatives from the DCEM, came to Monday’s meeting to explain the grant to the school board. Their presentation included information about safe rooms, but they also showed damage from tornadoes that hit Greensburg and Chapman.
They explained safe rooms as interior rooms that are an entirely separate building inside the school. It is a normal room in the school, such as a library or gymnasium, but designed and constructed to provide life-safety protection for their occupants from strong winds and tornadoes. Safe Rooms are constructed to withstand an EF-5 tornado, while keeping its occupants safe and providing adequate room and facilities, such as restrooms.
Davis said Eudora will be using the commons area of its new building as the safe room. He also said the board should inform the public about pursuing the safe-room grant, because it might help pass the bond issue. He warned the board about how the time to consider this grant is now.
“The grant’s not competitive, but the funding is competitive,” Davis said. “Right now, we have more money in Kansas than we’ve ever had. If you come up with this same bond issue one year from now, that funding is very competitive and takes six months to apply for.
“We can pretty much guarantee you today, if you pass the bond issue in November and apply for the grant, Teri has got reserves in our funding,” he said. “We cannot guarantee that it will be here in a year or in the near future. The opportunity to do it is right now. If you miss this opportunity, it will cost you.”
The board did make a motion and voted 6-0 to move forward with the grant process. Dorathy was pleased with the board’s decision and said he hopes the bond passes, because he wants his district to be safe.
“They will come down and work with us to get the grant,” he said. “If the bond passes, it would be a very good thing and it would give us very safe places for our staff and students.”