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Madison County leaders approve building two storm shelters

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - County leaders said 'Yes' to building two new storm shelters. This will affect people living in districts one and four, which includes Hazel Green, Meridianville, Harvest, and Toney.

People who may oppose the shelters argue they're only effective with enough advanced warning and someone to open it up to neighbors before a catastrophic event.

"It always comes right through here," Hazel Otey from Meridianville said. "This is the path. Right through here on Patterson Lane."

In 60 years, Otey has weathered some awful storms in Madison County. But she says 2011 was the worst.

"It tore up about three rooms," Otey said.

With help, she rebuilt. But in many ways, she's on her own.

"It's about seven miles from here to Huntsville," Otey said. "And they wait until the time to set the alarm off and you don't have time to really move far."

Otey and her neighbors in district one are about a 15-minute drive to the nearest storm shelter. But Madison County commissioners hope to reduce that time.

"We are working with FEMA. It's great for them to come in and be with us on the front end of the storm instead of the back-end," Madison County Commissioner Phil Vandiver said.

At this week's meeting, commissioners approved $70,000 in county money to build two shelters: one in district one and another in district four.

"It'll hold about 200 people," Madison County Commissioner Roger Jones said. "We hope we can get it built before the tornado season in the spring."

"I think it'd be a great idea," Otey said. "Because we don't have anything around here like that."

The two shelters will cost around $265,000 dollars to build. The FEMA grant will pay for just under $200,000. Jones hopes work can start before Christmas. The work is expected to begin this winter.

District four's shelter will be built at the Bobo Volunteer Fire Department on Old Railroad Bed Road near Ardmore. District one's will be set up at the Meridianville Volunteer Fire Department.