- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - Lauderdale County and Meridian Community College are working on placing a storm shelter on the school’s campus.

If given final approval, the 15,000-square-foot shelter could house up to a 1,000 people during bad weather, both students and non-students. The safe room will include restroom facilities, backup generators, a kitchenette, a receiving area and a large open room.

The project is expected to cost about $3 million.

Initial plans were to build the safe room at the Lauderdale County Agri-Center on Mississippi Highway 19 South. Now college and county officials want in on the junior college campus.

The new plan would locate it next to the MCC soccer field which is close to the college’s residence halls.

MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott said in a news release that the school is already a designated Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Elliott said MCC’s gymnasium was air-conditioned several years ago and multiple generators were installed on campus through a FEMA/MEMA grant. In return, the college agreed to serve as a shelter through the use of its gymnasium, fitness center and cafeteria.

“Right now, whenever we have a weather event on campus, we’re kind of scrambling to move students to the center of hallways or to the few basement facilities that we have. With a safe room that can serve as many as 1,000 people, MCC would be able to offer its students a much safer and secure environment. Also, we have so many events on campus that sometimes we run out of meeting spaces,” Elliott said.

Supervisor Joe Norwood said the location is a good one.

“You think of the number of students on campus there and at the Mississippi State branch,” Norwood said. “There are some senior citizen’s homes there within walking distance. I think it will be a perfect fit for what it was intended to be.”

Lauderdale County was approved through MEMA for a $3.2 million safe room grant in 2012.

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