SCC’s New Multipurpose Facility Doubles as Emergency Shelter WB Campus

At its August meeting, the SCC Board of Trustees approved the construction of a new multi-purpose facility on the West Burlington campus that will also serve as an emergency shelter. Construction of the $4.2 million facility will be funded in large part by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.

The 10,000 square foot concrete-reinforced, multi-purpose facility will be rated to hold 1,500 people in the event of an emergency and will be equipped with a generator. It will feature a single 5,000 square foot room capable of comfortably holding groups up to 300 for meetings or events, and also contain restrooms, locker rooms, and storage spaces. It will be located next to the new Blackhawk Recreation Center on the west side of campus.

SG Construction of Burlington won the project with a bid amount of $4,188,932. Construction will start this fall with anticipated completion by late 2024. SCC President Dr. Michael Ash said that planners submitted a project grant request to FEMA for a multi-purpose facility that could serve as a safe room for students and staff in the event of an emergency or severe weather event back in 2015.

The project could only be considered for funding if there were to be a qualifying disaster in the area, so his team knew there were no guarantees it would ever be funded.

“When the derecho hit in 2020, parts of Iowa were declared a disaster area which then triggered FEMA funding for recovery and rebuilding projects,” explained Ash. “After all the recovery projects were funded and completed, remaining dollars could be allocated to projects such as ours.”

It would be another year before FEMA officials would start reviewing qualifying project grant applications already on file.

“There was a lot of ‘wait and see’ as our application slowly made it through the system,” Ash continued. “They would update us whenever we passed all the different review processes, but it took a while.”

College officials were notified that the project was approved this spring. Ash was then able to take it to trustees to seek approval. The five-member board voted unanimously to move forward with the project.

Funding for the facility is as follows. The FEMA federal grant will fund approximately 50% of the total cost, a FEMA state match covers another 5%, Iowa’s Accelerated Career Education (ACE) funding will cover 20%, and college reserves from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) cover the remaining 25%.

Vice President of Administrative Services Cory Gall said that FEMA grant monies can only be used to cover the cost of the main building and infrastructure. “Essentially, FEMA pays for an empty building. We’re responsible for whatever goes inside, including the locker rooms, restrooms, and furnishings.”

Access to the FEMA grant was the contributing factor to make the facility feasible. College officials kept much of the HEERF funds awarded as part of the Federal COVID relief programs during the pandemic in reserve for future projects such as this but it still wouldn’t have been enough to pay for the building.

Gall said the building will finally fill a hole in the current facilities plan. “In addition to not having a purpose-built safe space in the event of an emergency, we’ve not had a facility versatile enough to accommodate mid-size meetings, special events and other unique uses. Without the FEMA grant, we would likely have continued to go without.”

“We’ve been very strategic in how we’ve spent HEERF dollars over the past three years focusing on projects that would be the best use of one-time infrastructure investments like this,” Ash added. “Being able to leverage the FEMA grant and our HEERF funds for this project meant we could have a building with relatively minimal impact to our other funds and not have to pass any of the costs on to students or taxpayers.”