Oskaloosa community group may have the answer for a shelter
by Dennis Sharkey
The Oskaloosa City Council has been looking for answers when it comes to a storm shelter, and a community group may have some solutions.
Members of the board for The Center Place met with the council earlier this month to offer support and some solutions to the question.
Council members were presented with a countywide mitigation plan last year and have struggled with language in the plan that said the city was in need of a storm shelter and an effort would be made to construct a shelter.
The Center Place board currently operates the Little Red Barn but has bigger plans for a community center. Linda Loving said a basement is part of the plans for the building and they were planning to dedicate part of it to a storm shelter.
“We wanted to make sure you all realize this is in the planning,” Loving said. “That may help you with your emergency action plan and may help keep you from having to build something else. This is already in motion.”
Loving said a storm shelter can only help so much during an actual event such as a tornado. Most people would not have time to get to a shelter.
The Center Place, when it’s constructed, could serve a different purpose as an emergency shelter. Loving said the center will have a small kitchen, several showers and bathrooms, as well as a large meeting area that could be used to set up cots. The center could be used in ice storms or after a tornado. The building also has plans for backup generators in case of power failures.
Plans for the center include 12,000 total square feet with 4,000 square feet of basement space. The building is also designed to take advantage of “green” opportunities.
No date has been set to begin construction. The center would be located on the same lot as the Little Red Barn to the west. Loving said the group began their capital campaign just as the current recession began to take shape.
“There’s a lot of things that we have in the works,” Loving said. “But there’s no money out there.”
The group did manage to raise $240,000. Board member Harry McDaniel said most of the money was spent in acquiring the property and in the remodel of the Barn.
Loving said their capital campaign is not limited to Oskaloosa. She said the entire county will be involved.
“It’s not just an Oskaloosa Center,”Loving said. “We would like to serve the entire county.”
McDaniel said in collecting data the group found that the county has a lack of places for large groups to gather and that was also taken into consideration.
“People can’t find a place to do large events,” McDaniels. “So they take them to Topeka or Lawrence or Kansas City.”
The group also doesn’t want anyone to interpret their quest as a better option. Loving said there are a lot of great community centers in the county and that won’t change.
“This building is not going to take the place of any other community building in any other city,” Loving said. “We really want people to understand that.”
All income for the group is generated from donations and rentals from the building. McDaniel said there are already some wedding receptions and graduation parties scheduled and they are getting ready for the spring and summer season of activities.
Loving said the center tries to have as many free events as possible but they also host workshops and classes that require some cost.
“The center is always trying to provide things for the community,” she said.
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