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The Columbia Elementary Safe Room In Joplin - What Went Wrong? - KOAM TV 7

The Columbia Elementary Safe Room In Joplin - What Went Wrong? And What's Next?

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

    The safe room at Columbia Elementary still sits - unused, as a safe room, it is however, functioning, as the school's gymnasium.
   The issues with the safe room go back as far as 2013, before it was even constructed.

 Following the May 22nd tornado, Joplin Schools used FEMA and SEMA money, coupled with funding from the Community Disaster Block Grant, or CDBG, to build safe rooms at it's campuses that were up to FEMA codes.
When it came to Columbia Elementary, on West F Street, mining was a concern.
So, Anderson Engineering, the firm at the time of construction, picked a site, which then turned out to be undermined.
John Snider, Anderson Engineering: "We did some more research and we found out that the underground mine in that area was generally on the east side so we tried to stay as far away from that mine as we could."
So they moved to the southwest corner of the property.
Dr. Kerry Sachetta, Joplin Schools: "I don't believe anybody thought that there was mining under that side of the property."
According to John Snider, one of the Geo-technical Engineers, the standard drilling depth to ensure the ground is stable on a site is 20 feet.
But, they wanted to be sure the site was safe.
Snider: "We doubled that we went to 40 feet, in some locations, just so we could have an idea, and then all the soil conditions that we found in the tests we did showed this is a pretty good site."
After the building was constructed, it began to settle, and is now unusable as a safe room.
The cause: the maps used to determine the site of mines at Columbia, were dated, and not 100% accurate.
Snider: "This is one of the risks of having things that you can't see that are not mapped that are not mined."
The district recently approved a $21,000 change order to continue investigations at the site to determine what can be done.
Sachetta: "That's what the whole process is right now is to really get a good report and be very precise on what they need to do and where it needs to be sitting."
Dr. Sachetta says returning the building to use as a safe room isn't an "if", it's a how.
And that could still take several more months before it can be used as protection from a tornado.
Sachetta: "Everybody's best foot was forward, and we've got a situation that's one of those things that's unforeseen."
    Dr. Sachetta tells us Columbia has a basement, which has been the school's "safe area" and will continue to serve that role until the safe room is ready.
    He wants to reassure parents the basement at Columbia is safe should severe weather threaten.

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Chris Warner
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A Joplin native, Chris first started in broadcasting at age 16 at KSNF-TV in 2004..

Chris joined the KOAM team in 2017 as an Associate Producer. In April, he moved into a full-time reporter position. He spent time from 2008 to 2016 in various retail roles around the region before returning to his passion at KOAM. Chris is excited to continue telling the stories of the four states. Chris and his wife Amber live in Joplin and have three amazing children.

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