The city council in Oswego, Kansas votes to keep areas previously designated as storm shelters closed to the public, saying safety is an issue and they provide a false sense of security. Citizens are upset, but the mayor says with no tax dollars paid to the city to provide such services there are no plans to add a community shelter at this time.
Charlie Perry says when storms strike he and his wife cram into a closet beneath his stairs. Like many in Oswego, thick rock under the town make it nearly impossible for his house to have a basement.
"They're going to get a lot of people killed, no place to go," says Perry.
Previously, the city allowed citizens to go to the county court house, local Presbyterian church or local junior high to seek shelter, but the city says they are no longer safe. According to Oswego Mayor Glenn Fischer the buildings are no longer safe for citizens during storms and it would be a liability to allow citizens into the buildings.
"A bit of a liability problem in closing these places down, may cause a few more deaths in case of a good tornado - a big one," says Perry.
But the city doesn't see it that way.
"These buildings give people what I think is a false sense of security," says Mayor Fischer. "They think it's safer than their home and it's actually not."
Mayor Fischer says the junior high has plans for renovations and those plans include a storm shelter, however, he says it's up the school's superintendent as to whether the community is allowed in.
Since the city itself does not allocate money for safe rooms it says it has no obligation to do so.
"If there were tax dollars allocated for it, then yes, we would be responsible for providing some of it, but there isn't," says Mayor Fischer.
The mayor says it falls on each citizen to make an individual game plan to ensure their family's safety and suggests everyone look into storm safe shelters or to find neighbors with shelters and basements.
"We're responsible for our family, whether it's in our home, whether it's in our car, or whether it's in a storm, we're all responsible for our own safety, that does not default to the city," says Mayor Fischer.
Perry says not everyone can afford that.
"There ain't no way I can afford $2,000 for the shelter, then you'd have to pay someone a whole bunch of money to come dig a hole with jack hammers," says Perry.
Mayor Fischer says between liability and safety concerns the city will not be adding a community shelter as of right now.
Perry says until they do he will stick to his closet behind the stairs.
Mayor Fischer says Oswego is not alone and that many cities in Tornado Alley do not provide public shelter for citizens, including Moore and Oklahoma City.