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Governor Announces $19 Million in Grants for Two Schools in Harrison County

From: Office of the Governor    Filed 5/15/07  GCN

(Jackson, Mississippi)Governor Haley Barbour today announced the Harrison County School District will receive more than $19 million in federal grants to enhance two schools in the district.

“I’m grateful for the unprecedented federal monies we have and continue to receive after Hurricane Katrina, particularly in rebuilding our educational and shelter facilities,” Governor Barbour said.  “These grants will help improve the structural quality of new school buildings in Harrison County, which in turn will provide much-needed shelters for a substantial number of coastal residents during periods of severe weather.”

The newly proposed West Harrison High School will receive a federal grant for more than $9 million to use construction techniques that will upgrade the school to standards providing almost total protection from hurricanes and tornadoes. The school will be able to shelter more than 2,000 people.

The new D’Iberville High School will receive a federal grant for more than $10 million.  The school has already received federal grants through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program to relocate and rebuild at a new site 101 feet above sea level. This additional grant will provide the other structural modifications necessary to make it a shelter for more than 3,000 people during a tornado or hurricane.

“One of the goals we set following Hurricane Katrina was to identify more shelter locations and to enhance our state’s shelter capacity,” said Mike Womack, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director.  “When the Gulf Coast is threatened with a tornado, hurricane or any severe weather event, these schools could provide shelter for more than 5,000 community residents.”

The grants were awarded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.  Funds from the HMGP program are activated following a disaster declaration and are based on a percentage of the estimated federal funding to be spent in Public Assistance and Individual programs. The funds are administered by MEMA.

“We want to provide the safest learning environment possible for our students,” said Harrison County School Superintendent Henry Arledge. “These buildings will be constructed to withstand wind speeds of 200 mph; unfortunately for most schools in our state, without state and federal funds the construction techniques necessary for these safety improvements are unaffordable.” 

The objectives of HMGP are to reduce or eliminate the future risk to lives and property from all hazards and to provide funds to implement projects previously identified in state or local hazard mitigation plans, and enable mitigation measures to be implemented during recovery from a disaster.

“This project is a sound investment in the future of Gulf Coast residents,” said Dennis Kizziah, acting director of the FEMA Mississippi Transitional Recovery Office. “Implementing these special construction and mitigation practices will allow more families to seek safe and substantial shelter in future disasters.”

MEMA is working with other local governments along the coast to provide mitigation grants that will increase both the number and strength of shelters.

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