Friday, May 25, 2012

Kudos to the Monett City Council for plans to build more storm shelters in Monett.

Back when we thought church basements made fine storm shelters, we had a lot of places to go in the old part of Monett. But it was a different story south of the railroad tracks and north of Sycamore.

We also used to think of tornados as narrow bands of damage for the unlucky, not wide bands of total destruction. As our sense of what constitutes a tornado changes, so must our idea of shelters.

When we settle for the definition of a shelter put forward by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it becomes painfully clear that really big sections of Monett have no community refuge locations. We also know that tornados can wipe away entire subdivisions in a blink of an eye.

Due to the foresight and diligence of Gene Mulvaney, the town's long-time emergency management coordinator, Monett became a leader in having well distributed and well-heard storm sirens. City councils showed good sense and generous resources by boosting the number of sirens to 14 at $13,000 or more apiece.

The next step requires even more determination. Even with FEMA paying 75 percent of the costs, shelters like the one planned for Marshall Hill will cost the city $200,000 each. That's without the additional expense of buying property. The Monett Community Center makes an ideal, center-of-the-neighborhood location for a new safe room.

Even if Monett's city councils can afford to build another safe room every couple of years, it will take more than a decade to place comparable shelters around the city. There's no time like the present to get started.

Congratulations also goes to the Purdy City Council for upgrading its storm siren. Twenty-five years ago, the running joke in Purdy was the ability to hear the siren depended on which way the wind was blowing. City leaders have done well to commit to a public safety project.

Pierce City, which takes tornados seriously, has also done very well in constructing storm shelters for its residents, in addition to using the National Guard Armory.

City councils have plenty on their plates these days, keeping up police departments, promoting property maintenance and dealing with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on water and sewer issues. Storm shelters are often the last thing they think about.

Those civic leaders who think past the day-to-day issues deserve thanks. Their decisions may make a big difference in their towns' quality of life down the road.