Wharton ISD was granted $400,000 from the Texas Division of Emergency Management to fund a community safety dome, which provides shelter during a hurricane or other crisis. El Campo ISD also applied for safety dome funding, but officials have not yet received an answer.

WISD and the City of Wharton applied for a grant for the City of Wharton Community Safe Room about two years ago, learning on Jan. 21 they will receive project planning funding. If the plan is approved, additional funding will be awarded for construction.

“It’s taken a lot of people to provide support and assistance for this funding,” WISD Superintendent Tina Herrington said. “Hurricane Harvey was two-and-a-half years ago, but this will be something that will help us be more prepared in future instances.”

ECISD and WISD could not apply directly for the grants, because one of the requirements is to have a hazard mitigation plan, so they enlisted the help of their respective cities. El Campo ISD began the application process in 2018.

“Both the grant writer and I have reached out several times receiving no definite response,” ECISD Superintendent Kelly Waters said.

Whether ECISD will receive a grant for their dome will be determined by remaining available funding.

“When we submitted, they told us it would be very unlikely that two grants would be awarded to the same county,” Waters said.

Wharton’s dome will be 20,000 square feet. It will house emergency personnel for the city during a natural disaster or other emergency. Otherwise the structure will be used by WISD as an athletics gym.

Parking at the stadium will be improved in order to accommodate emergency vehicles, including enough space to land a helicopter.

“I think it’s something that will benefit the community,” Herrington said.

While WISD officials elected to utilize their dome for athletics in times of non-emergency, ECISD’s would be used as a classroom and cafeteria located at El Campo High School, if their grant is approved.

As stated in the application, the Wharton project is estimated to cost about $5 million.

“There’s about $1 million of costs involved that FEMA will not approve,” Herrington said. “Things like putting bleachers in and the floor for the court and the basketball goals and things like that.”

The project is estimated to take 18 months. Once completed, the dome will be located on the same property as the Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium.

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