City blown away by storm shelter response
By Traci Chapman
Mustang officials say they have been blown away by residents’ enthusiasm about the city’s Individual Safe Room Hazard Mitigation Grant.
“We were fearful the lack of watches and warnings would make some of the original selectees reluctant to follow through,” said Robert Coleman, Mustang community development director. “We understand money for a safe room may be competing with more glamorous items in the family budget, things like boats, bikes and vacations.”
That did not appear to be the case in Mustang, Coleman said Tuesday.
Residents were randomly selected to participate in the grant, which would reimburse homeowners for up to $2,000 of the cost of a storm shelter. Of 525 people originally selected to participate in the program, as of June 21, 474 of them had attended a meeting required under the grant’s parameters.
According to city permit records, more than 142 of the original group selected to participate in the program obtained building permits. Of those, 15 safe rooms were installed since the program commenced May 30. Coleman said traffic at city hall was “brisk” as homeowners worked to fulfill requirements to continue in the program.
“The original selectees must all have their commitment agreement filed with the city by next Monday, they must submit all materials necessary for a building permit by Aug. 1 and they must have the safe room installed and all close out paperwork filed by Jan. 30, 2015,” the community development director said. “Anyone missing any of these deadlines risks being eliminated from the program.”
Although this year’s tornado “season” has been unusually quiet, that wasn’t the case last year. Although a May 31 storm caused damage in Mustang, it resulted in eight deaths and the destruction of several homes and businesses near El Reno and in the western part of Canadian County.
Between September and December last year, community development received 829 individual safe room grant applications. Thirty-nine properties were disqualified because properties were located in floodplains; another 40 homeowners dropped out of the running before Mustang received confirmation it had received the grant, Coleman said.
“And a handful of others have chosen to forego their eligibility in the meantime,” he said. “As result, another 50 to 60 families are likely to be randomly selected from the alternates list on or about July 1.”
Those randomly chosen will receive a phone call and letter from community development in early July, Coleman said.
The grant was also helpful for the city department, Coleman said. Federal funds were awarded to pay 75 percent of the wage of a part-time assistant, who assists grant recipients, he said.
Assistance is available at city hall, located at 1501 N. Mustang Road, on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursdays. Help is also available at Mustang Public Library Tuesday evenings between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Coleman said.
“There are a lot of steps involved in this process, and our citizens have taken it all in stride,” Coleman said. “This is a team effort between the Mustang City Council, city staff and our citizens with the ultimate goal of saving lives.
“Working with these parties has been a great experience, and we fully expect to have all 525 safe rooms in place well in advance of next year’s storm season,” he said.