La Feria News

City Commission Meets; Discusses Plans for Storm Shelter Domes, Funding for Proposed Expansion of City Police Station

Side view of the dome to be built at 1001 Pancho Maples in La Feria will house an estimated 600 beds during a storm and serve as a wellness center when not used for emergencies.

Side view of the dome to be built at 1001 Pancho Maples in La Feria will house an estimated 600 beds during a storm and serve as a wellness center when not used for emergencies.

The La Feria City Commission held its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26th. During the beginning proceedings a moment of silence was observed for the family of Jerry Steinbach before the meeting got underway.

The first agenda item was a presentation by John Pearcy and Benito Lozano of architectural and interior design firm Megamorphosis, well known for their work on the La Feria Firestation and current Library renovations.

Megamorphosis presented city leaders with initial designs for two storm shelter domes to be built sometime within the next fourteen months. The dome shelter to be built at 1700 S. Main Street will accommodate 850 people while the proposed dome shelter at 1001 Pancho Maples is projected to house an additional 600 people during a storm.

Pearcy described design influences for the structures as well as design obstacles due to regional conditions that the firm had encountered as they finalize plans to begin construction.

Floor plan for the dome to be built  be built at 1700 S. Main Street with a projected emergency  occupancy of 850 people

Floor plan for the dome to be built be built at 1700 S. Main Street with a projected emergency occupancy of 850 people

The Rio Grande Valley’s soil density, higher than average wind speeds during storm conditions, as well as its elevation in relation to sea level and propensity of flooding put several constraints on what materials could be used in the construction of the shelters. Because these shelters are some of the first of their kind to be built in this area, many of the FEMA approved materials remained untested in Rio Grande Valley storm conditions, particularly during a stronger than normal hurricane. Pearcy outlined how Megamorphosis had resolved these issues in the final designs presented at the meeting. A “low profile” dome implemented to reduce the weight of the final stucture. The dome’s construction utilizes a unique new method of construction, as well.

To begin construction, a round concrete foundation will be poured and reinforced with steel rebar. Walls will be built up from the foundation and an airform – a fabric balloon – will form the roof. Attached to the foundation and base structure, it will be inflated. Polyurethane foam will then be applied to the airform as a base, and steel reinforcement attached to hold its structure. Finally, a strong spray-on concrete will be applied to the dome’s surfaces.

Funding for the proposed domes was originally awarded to the City of La Feria in September 2012 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Texas Department of Emergency Management, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. FEMA will cover 75% of the cost to build the shelters, with the city making up the other 25% of costs incurred.
Mayor Steve Brewer expressed excitement about the proposed project, describing the domes as “an amazing opportunity” for the City of La Feria. Secondary use for the facility on Main St. will be a technology center, while the Pancho Maples shelter will function as a wellness center to compliment the recreational center next door to it.

Following the presentation, a public hearing was held to receive input on an application to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Community Facilities Program for $1,204,000 to be used in a proposed expansion of the City of La Feria Police Station. The resolution to authorize the submission of the application was approved by the Commission. Other agenda items included a proclamation making April “Fair Housing Month” and a resolution for the sale of ten residential lots to South Texas Collaborative for Housing Development, which was tabled for a future meeting. The Commission received the monthly financial reports for the month of February and reports by staff on the current status of several city projects, including progress on the library expansion and the sidewalk improvement project.

The next regular meeting of the City of La Feria City Commission will be held Tuesday, April 9th.

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