An item calling for the termination of Shawnee City Hall and Fire Station No. 3 for use as public storms shelters was approved at the Monday night Shawnee city commission meeting

An item calling for the termination of Shawnee City Hall and Fire Station No. 3 for use as public storms shelters was approved at the Monday night Shawnee city commission meeting.

Emergency Management Director Donald Lynch expressed the recommendation to eliminate the public tornado shelters was a result of new data, potential dangers, behavioral problems and an increase in local individual shelters.

“There’s probably between 600 and 700 shelters that have been registered in the Shawnee area,” he said of individual shelter numbers. “This is up significantly.”

Lynch explained new studies show the once widely-held belief that one must be underground to survive a tornado is “simply not true.”

“It does bear out that substantially-constructed buildings do provide shelter from those tornadoes that occur,” he said.

Two places a person should not be during a storm, Lynch said, are outside or in a vehicle.

“When you have a public shelter, unfortunately, many people wait until the very last minute, when the warning is issued, to get in their car and drive to a shelter,” he said, adding that situation potentially places people in harm’s way.

After noting that Norman, Midwest City and Edmond have closed public storm shelters, he spoke to behavioral issues that have occurred at Shawnee facilities.

Lynch said citizens have brought food and animals into the shelters and have left trash, urine and feces. Mayor Wes Mainord attested to the behavior.

“If you’ve been down here, and seen what’s going on in letting them come in here, you would definitely know we need to close it,” the mayor said.

Commissioner James Harrod disagreed, stating the facilities belong to the citizens and problems are to be expected.

“Those still are public facilities and should be used as public facilities,” he said.

Harrod and Commissioner Pam Stephens cast the only opposing votes in the 5-2 decision. Lynch said the early approval provides the public time to find shelter alternatives before next year’s storm season.

City Engineer John Krywicki gave a presentation regarding flooding on Buck Drive in response to citizen concerns.

He detailed three solutions to remedy flooding issues in that area: installing seven 72 inch pipes, for a preliminary cost estimate of about $3.5 million; installing three 10 feet by 6 feet concrete boxes, for a preliminary cost estimate of about $3.7 million, or installing a combination of open channel and triple boxes, for a preliminary cost estimate of about $1.9 million.

City Manager Brian McDougal noted the presented solutions, designated to withstand a 100-year flood flow rate, could not withstand a 500-year flood flow rate and said even the cheapest estimate of about $1.9 million would “pretty much eat up one year’s budget for road and street maintenance.”

McDougal, Krywicki and the commission briefly discussed how other cities have implemented a storm water fee to build a fund aimed at aiding similar flooding and clean-up efforts, though no action was considered.

“We’re blessed now to be aware of the problem,” Mainord said, adding the report was very informative.

The meeting was the last for Stephens, Commissioner John Winterringer and Commissioner Steve Smith, as commissioners. With terms soon ending, the mayor thanked and commended them for their dedication.

“Three of you commissioners are leaving,” he said. “While we may not have always agreed on every issue, it has been an honor for you to serve our community.”

He also stated he greatly appreciated their efforts.

City Attorney Mary Ann Karns said new commissioners would be seated at the next city commission meeting. New commissioners are Micheal Dykstra, Lesa Shaw and Gary Vogel. Harrod, Commissioner Keith Hall and Commissioner Linda Agee will continue to serve their wards.

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 2.