Voters Approve Storm Shelter In Panama

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PANAMA, OKLA. (KFSM) -- A small town in LeFlore County will soon have a public storm shelter after voters approved a sales tax increase Tuesday (Aug. 26).

The storm shelter will be built next to the Panama Elementary Schools, so younger children will have easy access to the shelter.

“Our main goal is to take care of our babies, and that’s all there is to it,” said Panama Public Schools Superintendent Grant Ralls.

Residents will see an 18 percent increase in their property taxes to pay for the $4 million center.

“If it wasn`t for them, we wouldn’t be getting this,” Ralls said.

Tornado sirens will automatically open the doors to the public, but Panama police will also be able to open the doors if there is an early enough warning for severe weather.

“You just don’t know when it’s going to drop out of the sky. And we’d like to think we have enough warning that we can get everyone there in plenty of time,” Ralls said.

The shelter will also be a gym with a basketball court, bleachers, locker rooms and a stage for choir and band performances.

“It’s definitely something we’ve needed for a while. And the new gym and everything is well overdue for Panama,” said Jennifer Milligan, a parent of four children in the school district.

The superintendent said construction will start next spring and should take 18 months to complete. By that time, basketball player Brayden Black will be a senior.

“I can`t wait to play on it,” Black said of the basketball court.

The center will hold about 1,000 people, and rules for the center will be discussed at the next school board meeting on Sept. 8. One thing that will be considered is if residents can bring pets in the shelter.