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Texas District To Build Multipurpose Dome Using FEMA Grant

$1.5 million grant will build community shelter
Architectural rendering of Woodsboro's dome structure.

In December 2009, Superintendent Steven Self of the Woodsboro (Texas) Independent School District received news from U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) that his district would receive $1.5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build a dome structure that would serve both as a school multipurpose area and a community shelter. Woodsboro, located along the Gulf Coast, has proven vulnerable to damage from storms, such as Hurricane Ike in 2009. Self had applied for a FEMA hurricane and tornado Pre- Disaster Mitigation Grant through the state nearly a year ago.

In 2005, the Woodsboro school was in need of an upgrade. "The school was in bad shape," says Self. "It was run down and hadn't been updated since the 1980s."

The community voted yes on a $10 million bond issue. Woodsboro officials used these funds to renovate much of the district's school, but they were still in need of a modern space for a gym, auditorium and community center— with $2 million left in their budget. Self investigated dome structures because of their cost-effective, energy-efficient construction and their ability to withstand severe weather. Self learned of an opportunity to apply for FEMA funding through the Texas Division of Emergency Management for a school building that could also serve as a shelter to house most of the community.

Woodsboro is one of three districts in recent months to receive funding for dome shelters from FEMA, including Niangua, Mo., and Fowler, Kan.

"Getting this FEMA grant was so important to Woodsboro," says David South, president of the Monolithic Dome Institute. "They're able to save money and have a gorgeous auditorium."

The construction on the Woodsboro multipurpose center is expected to take one year. Self hopes to break ground early this year and be completed by spring recess 2011.