Words and Images by Al Blanton
An ongoing project that was the product of the work of several government officials and county leaders came to fruition this past Monday, as a storm shelter was dedicated in the Curry community of Walker County. The 10×48 shelter, with a capacity of 96 persons, is located on Smith Lake Dam Road next to Curry Fire and Rescue and will provide severe weather protection against EF5 tornadoes.
According to Curry Fire and Rescue Board Member Joe Batton, a community storm shelter had been a desire of residents for quite some time, but the problem was there was no land on which to build the shelter. “A year ago, a local landowner, who has chosen to remain anonymous, got the ball rolling on the project by gifting two acres of land,” said District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis, who made a presentation at Monday night’s dedication of the storm shelter.
After the location was secured, Davis contacted Senator Greg Reed, who began to look for funding from the state general fund budget. Eventually, funding for the shelter was added to a $150,000 (ADECA) grant for updates to the Walker County Courthouse. Reed, a native of Cordova, had seen the devastation of the 2011 tornadoes in his hometown and surrounding communities.
“That was a moment for me that I will never forget, and it required of me to know how important protection from storms are,” Reed said Monday.
The plan to build the shelter with the ADECA grant money couldn’t come to fruition until consummated by the Walker County Commission, an action which occurred on July 19, 2021 at a regular meeting. During Monday’s dedication, Davis praised his fellow commissioners for unanimously voting to approve the funding.
“These gentlemen stepped up and voted unanimously to fund this project with the money that (Senator Reed) had secured,” said Davis.
Davis also praised several individuals and county employees for their hard work, including Walker County EMA Director Regina Myers, County Engineer Glen Peek, and his District 1 crew. He also voiced his appreciation for the volunteer firefighters who will be managing the shelter moving forward.
Commission Chair Steve Miller, himself a resident of District 1, also expressed his praise in seeing the project come to completion. “The safety of our citizens is as high a priority as we can have as elected officials, and the shelter is a culmination of the hard work of several individuals across different levels of government,” Miller stated. “I am proud to see this day arrive and want to express my appreciation for everyone who had a hand in making this happen.”
Batton said on Monday that a community shelter response team has been established to assist the fire department during storms.
The Curry shelter is one of 21 storm shelters in Walker County that have been established during Senator Reed’s tenure in the Alabama State Legislature.
“These shelters are options that are important for our communities,” Reed said. “It’s a privilege for me to come alongside and be a part of the work that was already ongoing in regard to this project and other projects like it throughout the county.” WL