GAS — A long-awaited project is underway in Gas.
Council members voted Tuesday evening to purchase a community size handicap-accessible storm shelter, to be placed near the old school in the northwest part of town.
Two efforts to attract a Community Development Block Grant to pay for the shelter failed. When the city acquired the school and adjacent property, for $1 from USD 257 last year, a place to locate the shelter materialized.
Location had been a concern because nearby parking was deemed necessary. The shelter can hold 40 people, including those in wheelchairs.
Cost of the 10-by-30-by-7-foot concrete structure, weighing 20,000 pounds, will be $54,000. Gas has earmarked the amount in its 2014 budget.
The shelter will have a door at either end of the above ground structure, which will be anchored to a concrete pad.
Gas has seven smaller shelters scattered about town, but they are not well-suited to the handicapped.
Storm and Fallout Shelters, a Baskin, La., company, will build the structure and install it.
WHAT USES may be made of the school occupied council members for nearly an hour.
Jack McKarnin and Rick Schulenberg visited Kincaid and Stark, to see how abandoned schools in those communities were refitted for community use, as well as Moran and its senior/community center, constructed and maintained by Allen County.
Schulenberg said they found a multitude of uses, from senior citizens activities to recreational opportunities to gathering places for youths to sites for private gatherings.
“They have city meetings, wedding receptions and family reunions, (congregate) meals, walkers, just a lot of possibilities,” he said.
The caveat is how to deal with roof problems.
School district officials estimated its repair/replacement at $90,000. Steve Robb, Gas superintendent, said earlier he thought with city labor the roof could be done for $70,000.
That’s the first consideration, said Councilman Mark Henry, getting the building up to snuff, how much that will cost and where the money will be found.
“Can we use it as is,” asked Jeanne McKarnin. “The school district had kids there — as recently as a year ago — so isn’t it structurally sound?”
Until the roof is fixed, the kitchen can’t be remodeled and new appliances installed, was the opinion of Councilman Larry Robertson.
Turning to adjacent land, McKarnin proposed at least putting in a ball field, “so kids won’t have to go into Iola to practice.”
Schulenberg asked if City Hall might be moved to the school.
City Clerk Rhonda Hill said the present location was a little crowded, but that problem could be alleviated by having council meetings, elections and other events designated for a conference room in City Hall moved to the school.
“We’ve thought about a library, a senior center and having (community) events in the old gym,” Henry added.
Hill said said she would ask Gas residents through a community letter how they think the building could best be used.
Meanwhile, council members will consider a rent agreement that would have users put down a $50 deposit and pay $50 for a single day’s use of the school.
“I think we will be able” to offer the building for rent in the two or three months, Robertson said.
From a pragmatic view, Councilwoman Jane Burns said, “We have to have a plan before we do anything.”
And that’s the way it was left.
HILL SAID she had detected little local interest to promote a community garden, which was mentioned when proponents of a county Food Policy Council visited with council members earlier.
Council members agreed to offer flu and pneumonia shots to employees, if their insurance doesn’t cover the inoculations.