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Cowart Elementary School storm shelter put on hold for construction

Due to contractor bids being too high, the City of Athens needs to secure more funds to start on the construction.

Posted: Nov 16, 2019 8:41 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2019 9:23 AM

A planned storm shelter in Athens is being put on hold after construction bids were too high.

It would be sitting right behind the SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary School in Athens.

We spoke with neighbors in the area about why it's needed now rather than later.

It’s been a year and it’s still just a plot of land, and some people who live nearby said having an above-ground shelter for older residents is better in case of an emergency.

"You know, you just walk right in, other than going down under the ground like other shelters that we normally go to," said Rodney Springer.

Springer has lived in Athens for 20 years and said the shelters near him all are underground.

He has older family members who have a hard time getting down and thought the plans for the Cowart Elementary School shelter were no more until we told him they're looking into securing more funds.

"During a tornado, minutes count, so we would be within less than a half mile getting to safety," he said.

The Athens city spokesperson said the safe room and storm shelter was supposed to be built at the elementary school this time last year. It would be built behind the school, above ground, and would be used for those at the school and the public.

The spokesperson said city and school officials secured nearly $400,000 for the $600,000 project. Once contractor bids were put out, they were all too high and put the project on hold.

Springer said in the meantime, if there are any severe weather threats, he has this to say.

"Take it seriously and be cautious and stay safe," he said.

To start construction, the City of Athens needs to secure close to $300,000, and it cannot be re-bid for different contractors until that money is secured.

The spokesperson for the city said the shelter would be used by the students and staff during school hours, and during after-school hours, it could be used by the public.

We don't know if it'll be used during a tornado watch or a tornado warning just yet.

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