Supervisors discuss emergency shelter

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


The Washington County Board of Supervisors will discuss approving a tentative proposal committing up to $5,000 to the Washington Community Y during its meeting on Sept. 11 to help make the proposed Washington facility equipped to act as an emergency shelter.

On Tuesday, the board approved having the ordinance written 4-1 after Y CEO Amy Schulte discussed the plan. Supervisor Abe Miller opposed the action, saying the constituents he has spoken to say he should continue voting to save taxpayers money.

Schulte told the supervisors about conversations she has had with other community Ys that have helped their communities after natural disaster, such as tornadoes. She said some Y?s house Red Cross or other emergency services. Schulte commented the Y now has an agreement with Washington County Public Health to act as a mass clinic in the event of an outbreak. She has also spoken with Washington County Emergency Management Coordinator Marissa Reisen to determine how the Y can assist in the event of a natural disaster.

?Our current facility doesn?t lend itself to that use,? Schulte said. ?In looking at what we can do in our new facility we are still at a stage we can make some modifications and change the facility and make it so it can be a site for the county to access emergency management.?

A copy of a sample agreement that would turn the facility over to the county in the event of a disaster was included in the board packet.

Y board President Ryan Slabaugh discussed the expenses for the modifications to the facility. The main expense will be a generator and modifying the building to be able to run off the generator. During the meeting the Y asked the board for a commitment from the board to help with the preliminary infrastructure that could be taken to Enhance Iowa on Sept. 12 to request funding for the project.

About 60 percent of Washington County residents live within 10 miles of where the building will be.

?We are at a critical point in design and development in that to make those changes and do it in the most cost-effective manner, now is the time,? he said. ?If we go past that, then you are cutting into new walls, you are pouring new concrete; you are doing things you wish you had done in the beginning.?

The type of generator to be installed would be discussed at a later date. Discussion is also being given to making the Wellman and Kalona branches shelters. For a diesel generator, the two options being considered are for $100,000 that would run the whole facility and for $20,000, which would be for a smaller generator that would only operate essential services. Reisen will be pursuing grants to pay for the generator installation. Ownership and maintenance of the generators will be discussed later. Liston said with the three facilities, there would be 80,000 usable square feet of emergency facilities.

Supervisor Richard Young stressed the emergency shelter in the Y is not the same as the emergency operations center in the proposed new communications center. He also said the area needs an emergency shelter, which would provide basic needs like food, water and shelter if their home is damaged in a disaster. Reisen commented there are no facilities in the City of Washington the emergency management agency has an agreement with that has a generator.

Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. stressed this is not a contribution of taxpayer money to the Y to help construct the building that would not give the county a return. He said this is to create an emergency shelter open to the people of Washington County. Supervisors Stan Stoops and Bob Yoder also support the project.