Safety during a dangerous storm has been a popular topic at Mustang City Council meetings since the Spring tornadoes. At their regular meeting last week, the City took a first step to encourage more of its citizens to invest in storm shelters.
The City Council approved a notice of intent to apply for an Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation Grant in the amount of over a million dollars that would reimburse property owners for the installation of a storm shelters.
It will also waive storm shelter permit fees for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends in June of 2014.
"Since we approved our multi hazard mitigation plan, this allows us to apply for the grant," said Mustang Community Development Director Robert Coleman.
"Yukon has been very successful with this grant and it has helped their citizens build hundreds of shelters and we will try to do the same here."
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration.
The purpose of HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery of a disaster.
Coleman said the City of Mustang is now eligible for HMGP funds with the approval of the update of its 2003 Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.
In 2003, Canadian County contracted with Tulsa-based Flanagan & Associates to research and publish a hazard mitigation plan in compliance with standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"FEMA requires an update to the plan on a regular basis," Coleman said.
"Again, Canadian County contracted with Flanagan & Associates for these services. As before, representatives from the City of Mustang Community Development, Fire and Police departments assisted in gathering data and providing input for this update."
Coleman said the plan is usually updated every five years, but there have been lengthy delays in getting the plan approved because of changes to FEMA guidelines in preparing documents.
"As a result, we have seen a number of changes in council membership and staff since the update began," he said.
"We have marked edits we are requesting in Mustang’s portion of the plan."
After the City Council approve the resolution adopting the plan, they looked ahead at possible grant money for storm shelter reimbursement.
"The City Council has discussed the possibility of initiating some type of program to promote storm shelter installations," Coleman said.
"HMGP funds may help property owners by reimbursing up to 75 percent of the installation costs. The first step in seeking this assistance is to file a Notice of Intent with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management."
Coleman said he will request assistance from FEMA and the state, which would allow a total of $1.5 million in storm shelter purchases and installations.
"If our Notice of Intent is approved, we will receive a formal invitation from the state to apply for the funds," he said.
"The application will be forwarded to the City Council along with a proposed program establishing the criteria for eligibility."
Ward 1 Councilman Matt Taylor asked Coleman why he did not request more grant money.
"I am just wondering why we asked for $1.5 million rather than, say, five million or 10 million," Taylor asked.
Coleman said he believed the $1.5 million mark was in line with the number of shelters he would expect to be built in a year.
The City Council also approved an amendment to an ordinance that will issue a moratorium on collecting permit fees for storm shelter permits for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
Councilman Taylor said by waiving the $54.50 permit fee for storm shelters, more citizens may be inclined to invest in a shelter.
"I know this permit fee is really a drop in the bucket considering how much a storm shelter costs, but I think this is the very least we can do to encourage this now," Taylor said.
"I think applying for the grant to reimburse citizens is a great idea, but if there is one thing I know about the state, that process could take a long time. This is something we can do right now."
The City projected that it would collect about $6,500 in fees during the current fiscal year from storm shelter permit fees, and that it would have to dip into reserves to make up that loss if the fees were waived.
Of the $54.50 permit cost, $50.50 is received by the City and $4 is remitted to the Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission.
The fee helps cover equipment, facility, material and labor costs to perform the plan review and inspections necessary to verify the installation is code compliant.