Wewahitchka aims to secure hazard mitigation dollars for storm shelter

At a special meeting called May 5, the City of Wewahitchka decided to move forward with the application process for grant funding that could build a new storm shelter on Highway 71.

The project was the recommendation of Southeastern Consulting Engineers, a firm hired by the city to act as the city’s engineer, who felt that of the eligible projects, the storm shelter would provide the greatest benefit to the community.

Funding for the project would be allocated through the Rebuild Florida Hazard Mitigation General Infrastructure Program (CDBG–MIT funds), should the application be approved. 

Wewahitchka is proposing a $2.75 million budget for completing the project. 

According to an official statement from the city, the plan is to “construct a new building located at the northern portion of 324 North Highway 71 to act as a storm shelter and information hub for the next catastrophic storm event.”

“The proposed 60 foot by 120 foot structure will be equipped with full kitchen amenities to serve the community meals as well,” it continues.

The Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program is designed to provide funding opportunities for local governments and state agencies to develop large-scale mitigation activities that allow Florida communities to better withstand future disasters. 

The funding round the city is applying for specifically aims to aid communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. According to Hunter Baumgardner, an engineer with Southeastern Consulting, more than $42 million has been designated for Hurricane-Michael-stricken communities through the program.

“Eligible activities include projects that demonstrably increase community resilience,” reads the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website. 

The DEO goes on to recommend projects that include: restoration of critical infrastructure; renourishment of protective coastal dune systems and state beaches; building or fortifying buildings that are essential to the health, safety and welfare of a community; rehabilitation or construction of stormwater management systems; and other similar efforts.

“Now more than ever, it is important to provide communities with additional opportunities to continue rebuilding and strengthening their infrastructure,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle when the CDBG–MIT program was announced in late March. “Governor DeSantis remains steadfast in his commitment to ensure all Florida communities become more resilient to any future disaster.”

Wewahitchka has opened the project up for public comment before submitting the application, which is due on June 10. Submission of the application does not ensure that funding will be allocated.

Public comments are due to the city clerk or a representative from Southeastern Consulting Engineers by May 27.

The city clerk can be reached at [email protected]. Southeastern Consulting can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected], and those with questions, comments or concerns are invited to stop by Wewahitchka’s temporary city hall at 211 North Highway 71.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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