WATCH | Safe room: LH multi-purpose space nears completion

Lake Hamilton School District Assistant Superintendent Jeff Britt stands in front of the new multipurpose safe room at Lake Hamilton Elementary School Thursday. (The Sentinel-Record/Donald Cross)

PEARCY -- Lake Hamilton School District's new multipurpose safe room, constructed at the south end of the elementary school in front of Wolf Arena, is expected to be complete sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Britt said Thursday.

The EF3-rated, 5,290-square-foot building will serve as both a tornado shelter and multipurpose facility with a gymnasium. The school board approved the project at its January monthly meeting at a guaranteed maximum price of $2,457,935, to be constructed by Hill & Cox Corp.

"The initial estimate of time was Christmas break and we'd start (using it) in January," Britt said.

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"We're a little ahead of schedule, so we suspect that shortly after Thanksgiving, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they'll turn us loose to be able to start using it. Really the biggest thing right now, security-wise, is door hardware. Once we get that in, then we can probably start using it," he said.

Workers are now working on a punch list, a document that lists the final work items remaining before a construction project is considered complete, he said, noting this mainly consists of paint touch-ups and finishing up some of the plumbing and hardware work.

"They just finished the parking lot this week as well, so next week they'll be pulling the construction fence down and trying to clean that parking lot so that when kids come back (on Nov. 27), they'll have the full parking lot hopefully," he said.

Funded with the district's local building funds, the building will hold around 1,000 people and features 10-inch-thick walls constructed of poured-in-place concrete with double-rebar reinforcement. Built 4 feet into the ground, the roof is constructed with 4-inch-thick concrete.

"It's an encapsulated concrete box," he said. "That's the reason we get as much echo as we do, because it's all concrete. And then we make it pretty on the outside. So a lot of that that you see on the outside is mainly just for aesthetics purposes, to make it look like more than a concrete box. Really the structure of the concrete is what makes it a safe room."

In 2012, the district built an EF5-rated, 3,500-square-foot safe room adjacent to the primary school using Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funds. It, too, doubles as a multipurpose facility. However, being EF5-rated, it is open to the community during inclement weather. Britt said the new facility mirrors that at the primary school and is the reason it was built the size it was.

Regarding the overall functionality of the new building, a corridor connects it to the elementary school, and a portable stage will be available to host school assemblies and other events. It will also be used for second and third grade physical education classes.

"The thing is, of course, we've had our safe room for a long time at the primary school ... We've really used it once or twice, so you've got a super nice facility, why not use it for something?" he said.

"P.E. space works really well for that because it leaves your floor space open. And so you're able to do some things in here besides just having it for a safe room ... in the case of a tornado, really, is what you're looking at. You know, the emergency need is not near as great until you really need it. But the day-to-day use this thing will get will be very valuable to us."

Once the project is complete, the district expects to lose around 35 parking spaces in front of Wolf Arena. He said they ended up taking a few more spaces for construction purposes than what was originally planned, but they will get them all back hopefully by next week.

  photo  The inside of the new safe room at Lake Hamilton Elementary School features a full-court gymnasium with four basketball goals. (The Sentinel-Record/Donald Cross)
  photo  The 5,290-square-foot multipurpose safe room at Lake Hamilton Elementary School is pictured on Thursday. (The Sentinel-Record/Donald Cross)