Governor's Emergency Relief fund provides match for storm shelter

Pictured at the site of the new storm storm shelter in the Ashridge area, from left, community residents and Ladies Auxiliary members Sheila Miller, Geraldine Jetton, Joe Ann Durham, Bonnie Tidwell, Renee Baker, with her grandson, State Representative Tim Wadsworth, Ashridge Assistant Fire Chief Roger Watts, Dr. Nicole Jones, Gene Baccus, Probate Judge Sheila Moore, Commission Chairman Roger Hayes, Commissioner David Cummings, EMA Director A.J. Brown.

ASHRIDGE - A storm shelter for the Ashridge community has become a reality, thanks to Governor Kay Ivey’s emergency relief fund for the sole purpose of providing matching funds for storm shelters across the state. State Representative Tim Wadsworth made this announcement at the Ashridge fire station, joined by county officials and Ashridge community residents, who have been working for years to raise funds for a community shelter. Through the years, the community has raised over $30,000, led by the Ladies Auxiliary, according to community residents. “All that money you have raised can go to your community center, because the governor’s fund of $33,200, and that will cover 100 percent of y’all’s match for the storm shelter,” Wadsworth said. Wadsworth stated he hoped the Ashridge community center could be built more quickly, since the governor’s relief fund has replaced the money that had been raised for the storm shelter. These statements met resounding applause from everyone in attendance. The total storm shelter project cost $74,900, with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency applied toward 75 percent of the project cost or around $61,000. The remaining 25 percent was covered by the governor’s emergency fund. Land has already been cleared and site prep work done for the shelter to be located on the property adjacent to the Ashridge fire station located off Highway 195. Weather permitting, the new shelter should be installed by April 1, according to County Commissioner David Cummings, among those in attendance. “If we have rain and if we have storms, we may have to adjust it a little bit,” added Commission Chairman Roger Hayes. “There’s a possibility if you do have bad weather, that it might be delayed a couple of weeks, but they are under a time restraint on that.” “That is what our intention is, because April is usually the bad month (severe weather) starts,” Hayes added. Winston County did the site prep for the new 24X10X8 shelter which will have the capability of holding 50 persons. “If a storm is coming, it can hold up to 150,” said Hayes. “They can tighten up.” The Ashridge shelter will have restroom access as well as a generator, so, if power is lost, it will be self-sustained, Cummings explained. Foundational footings to the shelter will be buried over a foot underground for better stabilization, he added. The two main footers will be 24-28 inches thick with the foundation pad being a foot thick, county officials said. The storm shelter project was actually started when Jimmy Madison was the county emergency management director, but has continued under the tenure of present EMA Director A.J. Brown. “I’m extremely glad to see a storm shelter come into the community,” Brown stated. “Ashridge has been hit multiple times in the past couple of years with storms and tornadoes.” Brown recalled a November 2016 tornado outbreak where a tornado struck the Ashridge community not far from the fire department. “So having the storm shelter is a definite plus to push for the safety of the community,” Brown added. Safe T Shelters received the contract to build the Ashridge shelter. Hayes commended the Ashridge community for coming together for the project. “When you help yourself, and that is what you did, then the governor and legislators and everyone looks at that, that is a plus that shows that y’all do things in good faith,” Hayes pointed out. “When you contribute your part, then you have other people who really want to help you,” Hayes added. The Ashridge community, in their years of work to raise funds for the storm shelter, have conducted such fundraisers as fried pie sales, baked sales, yard sales, noted member Joe Ann Durham. The Ladies Auxiliary started in 2012 raising funds toward the project, noted member Renee Baker. “It is not just the Ladies Auxiliary or just the Ashridge Fire Department,” she said. “It’s our whole community that has stepped in and helped us get this done.” Ashridge Fire Assistant Chief Roger Watts recalled tornadoes in the area in both 2011 and 2016. “(The storm shelter) will benefit the community because they will have a place to go, because some of the homes that were destroyed, those people had no where to go, so this will help everybody in our community out, that doesn’t have a safe place to go,” Watts pointed out. Once the storm shelter is built, it will be open and accessible to the public when a tornado watch is issued and will remain open and manned by fire personnel until the watch is lifted or the weather situation has passed, officials said. In the past, the Ashridge community was not able to apply for shelter funding, because they did not have land on which to build it, Watts noted. That changed, when the owner of 10 acres of property, where Posturecraft burned several years ago, near the fire station, donated the property to the fire department, Watts explained. In fact, some of the concrete slabs left from where Posturecraft was once located, will be used for the new community center/fire station building, according to Watts. Now that the matching funds gave been given for the storm shelter, community residents are ready to work toward their new community center. “We need a place to vote,” Durham stated. “We want to encourage our community center, that way we can get in and out and vote.”

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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