Completion set for this year
Hundreds of evacuees were housed in our community--volunteers throughout the area were serving meals, providing bedding and clothing, and offering prayers and support to people that were forced to leave their homes because of a massive hurricane called Rita. For days our community pulled together to help these displaced people. Because of this sheltering operation, the State of Texas had to be more prepared when, and if, another evacuation of this size would ever happen again. Shelters would be built.
It's been a long process that began in 2005 with the devastating hurricane season that hit the Gulf Coast. Carthage was one of the cities chosen by the state to be an evacuation site because of its central location and the Highway 59 and 79 corridors. City Manager, Brenda Samford, began the process to find a building and get the needed funds to transform it into a shelter that would pass federal guidelines. The Recycling Center was no longer being used for its original purpose, so it was a good fit for the requirements that were mandated by the State of Texas and FEMA. Samford contracted Gary Traylor & Associates of Tyler to secure the grant for the city. It took 2 years of diligent work by Traylor & city officials to get the final approval.
The specifications for the building were finalized and sent to bid in September, 2008. The bid for the building came in $2 million above what had been allocated by the grant. The building process came to a screeching halt. The city had already allocated $1 million toward the building, but more funds were not available to make up the difference. Shortly after this, the economy took a downslide and building materials were available at a considerable savings from the original bid. The city decided to rebid the building, and the price dropped by $1.5 million. Traylor & Associates also were successful in getting more money from the State, thus allowing the project to begin construction in December, 2010. Final numbers for the building:
· FEMA - $5,877,095
· ORCA (Office of Rural Community Affairs) - $313,205
· City - $1,637,887
· CIC (Carthage Improvement Corporation) - $1,000,000
In order to meet FEMA standards for an emergency shelter, the building had to be built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The top and side walls are twelve inches thick. Massive generators are in place in case of power outages when evacuees are in the building. Entrance doors are protected in case high winds force debris to hit the building. If evacuees are sheltered overnight, the building can hold up to 700 people, plus it includes shower facilities for both men and women. In case of an emergency situation, Panola County residents are allowed first access to the building.
When not used as a shelter, the building will function as a civic center. With over 15,000 sq. feet, the center can be used for special events. The building has seating for 1,700 people plus a large stage area complete with dressing rooms for entertainers. A canteen area has a concession-style kitchen for drinks and snacks. The paved parking lot has space for five hundred vehicles. Samford says, “We only have the basics in the building right now, but it’s all coming together. An electrical problem has set us back a few weeks, but everything is looking really nice, and we hope to have the building ready by the end of the year.”