The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 15, 2013

Kids to be protected by 10-ton slabs of cement

ELDON — One tornado in the district was enough to convince school board members that children required further defense against bad weather.

"It was 12 years ago that a tornado struck our district [in Agency], killing two people," said Joel Pedersen, superintendent of the Cardinal school district.

If a tornado had struck Cardinal High School, students and staff could have gone to the basement; the locker rooms, for example, are underground and would provide protection from bad weather, Pedersen said. But the elementary school has nothing to act as a shield. Pedersen said he and other stakeholders in the community worried about the "what if" scenario.

This week, contractors began construction of the district's "saferoom." Les Shepherd, the Cardinal maintenance staffer helping to oversee the project, said a crane is lowering 20,000 pound panels into place. Cedar Valley Steel then sets the panels, which are a foot thick, into steel pieces, which are then welded to create a frame. Shepherd said there are 24 of those 10-ton panels. Once they form the walls, crews will lay forms and supports on top of them. They'll then pour a 10-inch thick concrete roof onto the room, making it one solid cube. There will be a generator inside, as well as a list of items required to be kept in the shelter. The general contractor, Bi-State Contracting, is known to Ottumwans as the builder of the new Liberty school on the south side.

"[This project] probably started in the fall of 2010," said the superintendent. "I found out there was some funding for schools for saferooms that would protect students and staff. It was a long process working with Homeland Security and FEMA. We became part of the Wapello County Hazard Mitigation Plan. In November of 2012, we were awarded $550,000. That’ll be about 50 percent of the cost."

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