Tornado Shelter Off-Limits To Neighbors

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BALDWIN CITY, Kan. --   Baldwin City's new tornado shelter isn't doing much good for residents of a mobile home park that live right across the street.  When tornado sirens sounded on the night of February 28th, nearly 60 people found themselves locked out of the city's Performing Arts Center.

The PAC as it's known, sits next to the high school and doubles as an F-5 FEMA approved storm shelter.  Mobile home resident John Messmer tells FOX 4 he ran across the street with his wife and three kids only to discover the doors were locked saying it was, "pretty terrifying, a couple of people talked about breaking down the windows."

Mayor Ken Wagner tells FOX 4  the shelter is meant to be used by students.

"It was designed primarily to house student, faculty and staff of the school district," Wagner said. "I've asked the question if a tornado happens at 11 a.m. while school's in full session would we let people in the community into these shelters and the answer comes back we're not suppose to."

Mayor Wagner says the school district doesn't want the liability or have the staff to operate the shelter outside of school hours.  Wagner says the city faces the same issues.

"We have a volunteer fire department and we have a paid police staff but there but there are some times during a 24 hour period that we may have only one police officer on duty," he said

The mayor says it's safer for most people to shelter in place than to drive over to the Performing Arts Center if a tornado is in the area.  But residents like Sara Hadl, who live in the mobile home park across the street says sheltering in place isn't a good option.

"I just can't believe that they're not going to let us in there anymore," Hadl said.

The Mayor, the Baldwin City Administrator and the District Superintendent all tell FOX 4 they're still hoping to work something out. But they also point out no city in Douglas County has a community storm shelter.

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