Carteret County dodged another crisis this week with the passing of Hurricane Isaias which left the county pretty much unscathed. But the storm’s visit did offer a reminder of what the county, the schools and residents experienced two years ago with Hurricane Florence and the need to be better prepared with storm shelters. Both county commissioners and school board members have taken note of this need and are making plans to provide better facilities in the future if the county will support a $42 million school bond referendum proposed for the November election.

One key element of the referendum is funding for four multipurpose gymnasiums that will also serve as shelters for evacuees from storms or other natural disasters. Three of the facilities are planned for the county’s three high schools and one at White Oak Elementary.

Hurricane Florence was a major learning experience for county school officials and for emergency services. It left thousands of damaged homes and businesses in its wake after its visit to our county on Sept. 15, 2018 forcing hundreds of families to find shelter in a variety of public and private facilities. Just as the storm made landfall the county opened up Newport Middle School for shelter and throughout the 36 hours of the hurricane continued to accept evacuees. But the evacuees were unable to leave the shelter as the storm departed due to the severity of the damage left behind.

Due to a last minute decision to open the middle school, the Salvation Army and county emergency personnel were ill prepared for the large number of evacuees that poured into the facility just as the storm hit. But with grit and innovative effort, relief services were provided. The circumstances did not improve after the storm, in fact they worsened as more people sought shelter due to damages resulting from the historic rainfall of the hurricane.

Although the middle school’s facilities were adequate for the initial need of the shelter they were not designed for long term occupation as was the experience in 2018. And that lesson is being applied to the school bond referendum.

Residents and school administrators recognize that schools are more useful than just to house classrooms. Because of their size and flexible design, school buildings are also used as meeting locations, polling sites during elections and as in the case of the Harkers Island Elementary School, the annual Decoy Festival. And of course school buildings also serve as shelters but only for short periods of time and not for the length that was required of Newport Middle School following Hurricane Florence.

As the county’s population continues to expand, the schools will be stressed to meet increased student participation so the facilities are already in need of improvement. But those demands are more critical as expectations rise for use in such cases as shelters.

The concept of building multi-use gymnasiums that can be turned into shelters easily is a wise use of both facilities and money. Not only will the schools benefit for the initial use of the facilities but should the multi-use facilities have to be converted into shelters, short or long term, it will ease the burden of the schools and their staffs who will have maintain an active school setting at the same time.

(10) comments

David Collins

Oh , it would be nice if it was a 42 dollar bond . Sadly it is not quite near that amount . Would be much cheaper to rent a hotel room a couple of states over and return after the storm’s passing . One never knows , you might like it there and relocate . It happens . Ever rode out a storm in a shelter ? I never have but my neighbor volunteered to work in one back when Bertha and Fran paid us a visit . Swore that he would never set foot in one again . Never did . Oh , the stories he told . Humanity sinks to pretty low levels in times like that . Probably has not changed .

drewski

The way that bond is written is a blank check to BOE. 42 million, I will be voting no, I hope the rest of you do also. Stand alone gyms is pie in the sky, wastefull,unnecessary and a perfect example why school bonds are a horrible idea.

mpjeep

42 Million? Nope, never happen!

Osprey

I support everything in the bond EXCEPT 4 new free standing gyms. My vote is NO.

Sleepwalker

Fails the first smell test...more money in the hands of government folks...I don’t think so.

beachmami13

With the way that the county freely and unwisely spends our tax money, I'm sure that they'll be pushing for this more and more. I'm sure all of us don't hate change, we just want the county to have a plan other than always promising things and then using the money from taxes however they want. I did come across this website where it shows how another small beach area handles change in their area. Although not perfect, it's refreshing to see another small area actually including items that take into consideration the low income wage earners in the area & how to attract families and retain them. This is SO different from my experience in this county, which seems to be much more of an old boys club and one that doesn't seem to care about the general population here. Check out their plan - much more comprehensive and considerate than any "plan" I've seen the county come up with:

https://www.capecharles.org/pview.aspx?id=37896&catid=0

SandFiddler

The county residents would likely be more supportive if our commissioners/educators brainstorm about existing structures throughout the county that could serve as multi-use establishments. Could the Salvation Army further expand to include a shelter on their premises or else use their 11,000 square foot thrift shop for one of the shelters during a disaster? Could the Board of Education building be used as a shelter? There are all sorts of possibilities... My vote will be NO to the $42 million school bond referendum. We do not need stand alone gyms.

David Collins

Another thing that comes to mind is posed as a question . Ever wonder why the recently built schools look alike ? Could be the same architects , I believe from Wilmington . Architects fees are based on the cost of the projects . The higher the costs the higher the fees . Just like the real estate industry . No incentive to keep costs down for more taxpayer value , heaven forbid . Couple that with the inevitable high profit change orders and low bid awards for construction you end up with a minimum standard constructed palace . Must be a middle ground here but no incentive to find it . Somebody else’s money so let the good times roll sort of thing .

It happens folks , it happens and don’t forget the cost of furnishings , employees and various supplies and IT gear . These are not one time costs . They go on into perpetuity .

beachmami13

Oh, I have a great idea!! They are spending 7 million for the new MHC administration buildings off of Bridges. Maybe they can use part of the admin. building for sheltering all of the tax payers who made that $$ project viable! Yes!! Let's take back our power as taxpayers & find multipurpose reasons for how they spend our $$.

SandFiddler

Fabulous idea beachmami!

Welcome to the discussion.

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