By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Land that the City Council had informally endorsed as the future site of Joplin’s fire and police training center will be developed as a temporary housing park for tornado victims.
Fifty acres on Missouri Highway 171, south of the Joplin Regional Airport, will be set up to accommodate up to 348 modular homes for those who need temporary housing, said Crystal Payton, external affairs representative for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Today marks the one-month anniversary of the storm that destroyed about 7,000 homes in the city of Joplin alone, in addition to houses in Duquesne and rural areas of Jasper and Newton counties.
A total of 624 families have been in need of interim housing while they rebuild or wait for rental property to become available, said Pam Willis, a FEMA housing specialist for Joplin. They are some of the potential tenants for the airport mobile home park. The number of those in need of housing changes constantly, she said. Priority for housing is given to those staying in the Red Cross shelter at Webb City. That number has dropped from about 60 last week to 15 on Tuesday.
The site of the FEMA park is available because the city has put on hold planning for construction of a $7.1 million public safety training center, said Lynn Onstot, public information officer for the city of Joplin.
The City Council in April favored the site as one of six proposed locations for the training center but had not yet been asked to take formal action. That project is one of those promised to voters when they approved a half-cent public safety sales tax in 2006.
Payton said FEMA is required to take public comment on such projects. Notices for public comment will be published today, she said. The comment period has been shortened from 14 days to three days because of the emergency need for housing.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be in charge of contracting construction for the placement of pads and utilities for the mobile homes, Payton said. FEMA intends for the construction work to begin within a week.
It will take 45 to 60 days to set up the entire park, but the first phase could be ready in as little as 18 days. The land will be divided into two parcels, and building will take place simultaneously on them in six phases each.
A safety fence will be erected between each phase so that people can be moved into the units that are completed.
About 9,000 people in Jasper and Newton counties have registered with FEMA as having been affected by the May 22 tornado. The agency’s housing staff makes periodic calls to those who applied for housing assistance to check on their status.
“We are not aware of people who are homeless,” Payton said. “We have people who are living with family or others” but may want to move into FEMA housing for the longer term.
Housing will be provided for up to 18 months, retroactive to May 9, when FEMA first came to Missouri to assist with flooding relief.
People who have not yet registered should do so, even if they currently have housing or believe they soon will be able to rebuild, the FEMA officials said. That is because construction of new homes could get delayed because of the demand on contractors, and people later may be caught in circumstances in which they need temporary housing. They can obtain assistance if they are registered, Payton said. The registration deadline is July 8.
If the number of people who need housing drops, additions to the housing park will stop.
FEMA asks that people notify the agency if they find housing.
The government will pay all of the cost of setting up the modular homes. The homes are rent-free and utilities are paid.
The modular housing units are like those already being installed at two commercial trailer parks. They are 60 feet by 14 feet in size, with three bedrooms and one bathroom. They are equipped with appliances and furniture.
FEMA has 32 modular housing units ready at two commercial trailer parks, Fountain Road Village and Country Acres Mobile Home Park. Willis said 11 were occupied as of Tuesday morning.
More sites will become available at those parks as the modular homes can be installed and storm victims can be processed to move in, she said.
Storm victim not among those with fungus
It was reported incorrectly in Saturday’s edition that James V. “Jim” Cookerly, 49, was among the fatality victims afflicted with zygomycosis in the wake of the May 22 tornado. Cookerly was injured by the tornado while he was a patient at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, but he did not contract the rare fungal infection. The word “not” was inadvertently dropped from the Saturday report.
The official toll of fatalities in connection with the tornado remained at 155 on Tuesday.