The only FEMA-funded hurricane safety dome in Wharton County was officially eliminated last week leaving El Campo ISD officials left wondering if it will revive the local project.

Wharton ISD trustees voted unanimously Thursday to drop the post Hurricane Harvey project despite heavy damage there during the 2017 storm.

Both school districts had designed hurricane domes shortly after the 2017 storm, El Campo ISD planning to site its $5.5 million project on the high school campus. The district hoped for $4.2 million in FEMA dollars for a 17,000 square-foot structure.

No funding came here, however. Instead, Wharton ISD got funding.

“We have been told that only one application would be approved in Wharton County,” ECISD Assistant Superintendent David Bright told the Leader-News last month.

The ECISD plan and funding request is still officially pending, but no federal action had been anticipated prior to Wharton ISD’s decision.

“It depends on the long range goals for our district and how this fits into our basic facility needs,” Callaghan said. 

The new Superintendent was hired after the original grant application was made and he has yet to discuss the matter with the school board.

Wharton ISD trustees chose athletics over the safety dome during the called session Thursday, voting 7-0 to have Huckabee Architects design a dressing facility at Eddie Joseph Memorial Stadium and gym upgrades at Wharton High School.

Preliminary estimates for the Tiger field house are between $1.3 and $1.7 million with another estimated $2 million to refit two gyms at the high school.

Polasek Construction of El Campo got the $2.2 million bid for El Campo ISD’s almost complete weight room in November 2020.

Wharton ISD had budgeted $4.1 million on the FEMA shelter/dome, and needed $1.5 million more to move forward, but WISD Superintendent Michael O’Guin, who was hired in May 2020, said there were obstacles in dealing with the federal government.

During a dual meeting between the WISD Trustees and Wharton City Council July 27, elected officials were told there was not a timeline when the FEMA shelter/dome would be constructed even if WISD dished out additional funding.

Council asked during the session if Wharton city funds were available to partner with the school district on the dome project. Wharton Mayor Tim Barker said none were available. 

The FEMA domes, as designed, would not have housed the general public during a storm or other emergency. Instead, in the Wharton dome, for example, up to 694 people from public works, volunteer fire departments, police departments and other first responders would have been sheltered.

Wharton ISD was granted $400,000 from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to fund the dome in early 2020.

 

 

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