FIRST PLAN ON $ 3.7 MILLION ADD-ON: Gainesville School begins construction of a large new front addition funded by grants and an interest-free loan

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Fifteen golden shovels hit the ground on Friday, October 22 in front of Gainesville High School, marking the official grand opening of Gainesville’s new $ 3.7 million, 8,000 square foot addition.

The new structure, which will sit directly at the center in front of the current building, will include a new facade, changing rooms, offices, a storage room and a multipurpose common space. It will also serve as a storm shelter for the school and the community, capable of withstanding winds of 250 mph. As required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the funding for the building, the storm shelter will be open to students and staff during the school day as well as to nearby residents whenever tornado warning is issued, even outside of school hours. .

Gainesville Superintendent Justin Gilmore said last week that construction has started and will continue throughout this school year.

He hopes that the work can be finalized before the start of the 2022-23 school year.

The grand opening included a program in the newly renovated gymnasium at Gainesville High School, where Gilmore, White River Valley Electric Cooperative Economics Specialist Devin Sonnenfelt and 33rd Missouri District Senator Karla Eslinger addressed the audience.

FEMA Grant Award and Supplementary Plans

Gilmore said former Gainesville Superintendent Jeff Hyatt, who also attended the ceremony, initially “got the ball rolling” for the FEMA Shelter Grant in 2017, and after his retirement, Gilmore and the council current school took the reins and carried it through. The South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG) also got involved early on and was instrumental in the intense and tedious process of writing grant applications.

The district was notified in October 2020 that it had received the grant, which includes total funding of $ 2,046,816 from FEMA to build the storm shelter on the front of the school. To carry out the project, the school must pay a sum of $ 227,424.

“This is where some people get confused. This money can only be used for FEMA eligible costs, ”Gilmore told the Times shortly after the announcement of over $ 2 million from FEMA and $ 227,424 from the Gainesville School District. The FEMA grant spells out what its funds can pay, Gilmore said. “It means that [with the grant money and matching funds] we can pay for the precast concrete base structure. We can pay a certain number of toilets. We can pay for any number of lights. We can pay for the heating. But these funds can not be used for air conditioning. There are a lot of things that these funds cannot pay for. They cannot be used for anything above a basic concrete floor. They cannot be used for any interior framing or anything to finish. These funds can only pay for the basic concrete block structure that creates the tornado shelter, ”he said.

While some schools are leaving their FEMA tornado shelters at this very basic level, Gilmore said the Gainesville School District plans to add just over $ 1 million in upgrades on top of its game of 227,424. $ to complete the structure. These funds will be used to pay for things that are not eligible for FEMA funding, but will make the space a more functional addition to the current building.

“If we only used the FEMA grant money, we would have a great basic concrete block structure, but that was never our plan. This [addition] is going to be used in so many different ways, ”he said. “But we have to put a little bit more into it to make that happen.”

WRVEC Grant Offer $ 1 Million interest free loan at the Gainesville school district

“The district quickly realized that an additional source of funding would be needed to move the project forward and complete it in a way that would make our district and community proud,” Gilmore said during the program. revolutionary. “Enter the White River Valley Electric Co-op. Our local co-op has partnered with the school district on past projects, so when the need arose for a USDA rural development loan, I reached out to them.

Gilmore said WRVEC applied for the Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants Program (REDLG) which would allow the co-op to offer a $ 1 million interest-free loan to the Gainesville School District for the remaining costs related to the construction and finishing of the addition. . WRVEC was the only co-op in Missouri and one of only 14 co-ops in the country selected for the grant.

“The Gainesville School District and the community are very fortunate to have such a supportive, knowledgeable and caring co-op to support and invest in our local economy,” said Gilmore. “On behalf of the District, I would like to thank White River Valley Electric Cooperative for their continued support to the schools in Gainesville.

Gilmore then handed the mic to WRVEC’s Sonnenfelt, who told the audience, “It’s an honor to be here and support this project. . . this has given rise to a vibrant community effort that has required the coordination of many partners – partners who are here today to take part in this celebration.

Sonnenfelt especially thanked the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which also worked as a partner to enable WRVEC to deliver the loan to the Gainesville School District.

“Today’s project is also the result of a second partnership; it is the partnership of the community and the neighborhood. As many of you know, families in the community support the neighborhood by residing here, working, and sending your children to school here. As an electricity supplier, we take this seriously. Moving this safe room project forward is a major step in honoring the community, the past, the present and the future of the district, ”said Sonnenfelt.

“Nothing you do for children is never wasted”

State Senator Karla Eslinger, a graduate of Gainesville High School, then spoke.

“I’ve worked all over the country, all over the state, and I can tell you there’s absolutely nothing like coming back to Gainesville, Missouri,” Eslinger said. “When I think about what we’ve been doing here as a community, and I see our commissioners here, I see our law enforcement here, so many staff here. It’s just a testament to what you can do when you decide it’s an important time and something right to do. There is no stopping rural communities today because of these types of cooperatives, and for me, this project is perfect. Thank you all for your contribution, for your support.

Eslinger said she had a sign on her desk with a quote from Garrison Keillor that read: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”

“This project is proof of that,” Eslinger said towards the end of his speech.

Gilmore closed the program by thanking Eslinger, State Representative Travis Smith, United States Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Jason Smith, who have all written letters of support or actively advocated for the project. He also thanked BranCo Enterprises, the general contractor for the project, and again thanked USDA and WRVEC for the $ 1 million interest-free loan, FEMA and SEMA for funding the shelter grant. anti-storm, and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

“Most importantly, I want to thank the Education Council, which had the vision for the FEMA project and the gymnasium [renovation] and have been persistent in making sure it all gets done, ”Gilmore said.

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