FORSYTH -- During last weeks ice storm, two Monroe County families traveled to Macon seeking shelter after they lost power.
There werent any shelters closer to home.
Monroe County commissioners voted Tuesday to allow the American Red Cross to use the county Youth Center, located at 100 Dan Pitts Drive in Forsyth, and the volunteer fire station at 8037 Rivoli Road in Juliette as shelters should a need arise again.
We need a shelter, said Michael Bilderback, commission chairman.
Half the county, including some nursing home residents, were without power during the storm, he said.
The cost to the county -- in terms of employee overtime, cleanup and response -- havent yet been tallied, said Matt Perry, the countys Emergency Management Agency director.
Were still collecting that data, he said Tuesday.
Perry said he expects FEMA will visit the area in the near future to determine the amount of reimbursement the county will receive.
When another disaster strikes, Monroe County will be better prepared to shelter residents now that sites have been identified and agreements are in place, said Donna Lee, disaster program manager for the local Red Cross chapter.
The impact is huge, she said.
The typical time to arrange for a shelter to open has now been cut from at least 24 hours down to about two, Lee said.
In addition to the two county-owned sites, Bank Stephens Middle School and Christ United Methodist Church also have been volunteered as shelters, she said, and agreements with two other churches are tentative.
Lee said the shelters will provide a place for people to stay overnight during hot or cold weather. The county previously has only had a warming center.
A nurse and Red Cross employees will staff the shelters, which will be outfitted with adequate bathroom facilities and stocked with items people would need, she said.
An assessment still must be performed at each of the sites to help develop a plan for how each could be used, she said.
Lee said she first requested that commissioners approve the use of a county facility for a shelter in December while putting out a plea for more volunteers from Monroe County.
Six people have signed up as volunteers since December.
Anyone interested in volunteering may call (478) 743-8671.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.