Peoria Tribe Chief John Froman said the storm shelters will be placed at all four sites using the ICBG tribal grant funds to increase the safety of tenants.

MIAMI – The Peoria Tribe Housing Authority broke ground for the installation of 120 new tornado and storm shelter units on Wednesday afternoon.

Tribal officials, Peoria Housing Authority staff, residents, tenants, tribal members and others came to the ceremonial groundbreaking to kick off and commemorate the important event.

“This is a project for our low-rent communities here in Miami, Fairland, Wyandotte and Quapaw, we're going to put in approximately 120 storm shelters throughout the communities,” Peoria Tribe Housing Authority Executive Director /Second Chief Jason Dollarhide said. “We will have different sizes, depending on the size of the unit, if it's a four bedroom unit – obviously you can get a total of eight folks in there.”

The project was funded through part of a $1 million HUD - Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) to provide storm shelters for each of the total 400 housing units, including 150 low rent units - some multi-plex units will share a shelter.

Peoria Tribe Chief John Froman said the shelters will be placed at all four sites using the ICBG tribal grant funds to increase the safety of tenants.

“It's going to be convenient and very accessible for the tenants,” Chief Froman said. “It's probably a project that's long been overdue for our tenant's safety and our elderly, and the small families here. Unfortunately, when you're renting a low income based housing they don't have the resources to go in town, or drive, or build their own shelter. So it's something that the board and the tribe felt really strong about – it's a great program.”

“We'll spend roughly $500,000 to $600,000 with this project, with what we have remaining we will put in new playground equipment at all of our lower rent sites,” Dollarhide said. “The grant is earmarked for several different things – we earmarked it for rehabilitation. We are the first Indian housing authority to do stand alone individual storm shelters. Usually, when you see them in a project like this they will construct one large storm shelter where everybody can meet. ”

Dollarhide said each of the units cost depended on the size and the Tribe received a small break because of the volume purchase.

“You figure 120 units, we're probably getting into them between $4,000 or $5,000 a piece, and that includes a concrete slab that they go on,” he said.

The number of residents who are elderly or disabled caused the Peoria Tribe Housing Authority to choose above ground shelters.

“We wanted to make sure everybody can get to a shelter immediately,” Dollarhide said. “They have a lock on them for security reasons and obviously all of our tenants will have a key to be able to get in there whenever they feel they need to do that. They'll be glad to have them, but I hope we never have to use them.”

The above ground shelters constructed by Oklahoma Shelters of Oklahoma City are built to withstand EF5 tornadoes with ¼ inch steel walls, including the floors, and will sit on concrete pads. The units are anchor bolted down with super strength attachments.

“They've been Texas Tech impact tested and passed the EF5 tornado test,” Oklahoma Shelters Owner Len Branch said. “They also meet FEMA criteria. We gave them a good deal.”

The individual steel storm shelters have four latches and a deadbolt on the interior to ensure easy closure for safety and vents for access, as well as GPS location for emergency workers.

“We went above ground mainly because of our elderly and disabled folks, that way they are able to get into the unit, if they were in the ground it wouldn't be worth it if they couldn't get down into it or get the door open,” Dollarhide said. “This is the groundbreaking and we will get started tomorrow in Quapaw and we're getting more preliminary stuff done as far as utility line location.”

Dollarhide said plans are for all units to be in place before tornado and storm season hits Oklahoma.

“Some of the shelters will set right by the front door on our four-plexes that we have and with our four bedroom units, the shelter will set right behind the unit,” he said. “We want to thank the Peoria Tribe first off because, without those folks over there, we would not be able to get the ICDBG grant money. The residents are excited about it, we're excited about it to let the residents and tenants have that peace of mind. ”

These shelters will be the first built for the tenants.

“We don't have any other type of shelter on site,” Dollarhide said. “This is something I've wanted for the folks here, and the others here at the Housing Authority have wanted as well, so we're real excited about that.”

Tribal members and Peoria Housing Authority tenants attending the groundbreaking got a chance to see one of the new shelters and to check out the Peoria Tribe's tornado simulator for a simulated storm experience.

“I'm so grateful to get one. I'm so scared of storms,” Wink Froman, a tenant of three years, said, after looking over and getting inside the shelter at the groundbreaking event.

The tenants were happy to receive the new shelters for their safety during storms and plan on using them during threatening weather.

“We have too much bad weather here,” tenant Susan Walls said. “ These is something we needed truly needed, I'm so appreciative.”

“I think it's a wonderful idea. I'm thrilled,” tenant Terri Kerns said. “ The apartments are already so nice, and everybody's so nice and to have this on top of it – it's an amazing gift. They're going to be right outside our doors.”