‘Safe room’ planned for Owen will be space for protection and school updates

The plan for 'the dome'
The plan for 'the dome'(weau)
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Three Wisconsin communities are soon to have ‘community safe rooms’ meant to protect people from tornadoes and one of those cities is Owen.

Currently, in the event of a tornado warning, students at Owen-Withee schools take shelter in bathrooms and closets.

“We’ve got roughly 500 kids plus 75 staff in the building September 1 through June 1. In a situation like that we are very tight on where we can go for protection,” said Owen-Withee School District Administrator, Bob Hauts.

Hauts says with plans to break ground in July, the school and surrounding communities will now have a safe room for these scenarios.

“The dome itself is rated to withstand an F5 tornado,” Hauts said.

This dome, or safe room, is possible in part thanks to a 1.9 million dollar grant to the city of Owen, from FEMA.

“1.9 million dollars was the grant we applied for and got approved of a five million dollar project so we have about 40% of the building costs for our project through the FEMA grant and we just got final approval yesterday so we are excited to get started,” Hauts said.

Charles Milliren says as the Mayor of Owen, it’s been an ongoing concern to not have a space like this for people to access.

“If we get this we’ll have a storm shelter large enough for a lot of people,” the mayor said.

The new dome will not only be a safe room in case of emergencies. The city has planned out how to optimize this circular space

“We had a need for a multipurpose space, a cafeteria and kitchen so we partnered up with the city to develop a plan for a space we can use 99% of the time as a multi-purpose space and if needed can be a storm shelter,” Hauts said.

“It will be a gymnasium floor ... the drama will have a stage in the auditorium which they have never had before,” Milliren said.

Hauts says the goal is to have major portions of the construction complete by the end of summer 2022.

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