Salem seeks $1.5 million grant for earthquake safety

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McKinley seeks $1.5 million grant for earthquake safety

10:30 p.m. PDT September 30, 2015

McKinley Elementary School is the last of four unreinforced masonry schools in Salem-Keizer that need to be reinforced for earthquake safety.

District officials are applying for a $1.5 million grant to get that work completed.

Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, began accepting applications Wednesday for $50 million in earthquake safety grants available to Oregon school districts.

“We cannot predict when the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami will occur, or if it will in our lifetimes,” said Governor Kate Brown. “While planning for such an unknown is difficult, it is critical that we invest in our schools now.

“Building resilience to an extreme earthquake not only protects life, it helps communities recover from disaster more quickly and efficiently.”

The grants are the first part of a $205 million program the Oregon Legislature approved earlier this year to renovate existing schools and emergency services buildings to be better prepared to withstand an earthquake, according to a recent Business Oregon press release.

The Salem-Keizer School District received a grant in the previous round for $1.5 million. This money was used for improvements at Richmond Elementary, according to Jay Remy, a spokesperson for the district.

For the upcoming round of applications, the Salem-Keizer district will apply for $1.5 million for improvements at McKinley Elementary.

McKinley is the last of the four unreinforced masonry buildings in the district, Remy said. When McKinley is done, all four will have had major seismic improvements to increase student and staff safety.

He said the four masonry buildings were of the greatest concern and got the biggest, most structurally invasive projects.

However, most of the schools are quite old and therefore were not built to today’s seismic code.

“The older buildings have more issues than the newer ones, when you measure them by modern seismic standards,” Remy said.

He added that the district has actually completed 43 other smaller projects at schools in the last six years, using construction bond money. But even the old buildings that have had some seismic improvements could still use more if they had the money, he said.

“This grant program has been a great boost in our effort to address the issues,” he said. “We appreciate the Legislature stepping forward with this assistance. Our district, and probably all the other districts in Oregon, would welcome any future financial assistance as well on this important issue.”

Business Oregon’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program will accept applications until Dec. 31. The funding will be awarded by a grant committee in 2016 based on criteria that includes a cost-benefit analysis and an evaluation of the building’s importance to the community it serves. The press release also stated that the grants are limited to $1.5 million per project and no local match is required.

Since 2009, the State of Oregon has awarded $58 million in seismic rehabilitation grants to 77 projects across Oregon, 37 schools and 40 emergency services buildings.

Additionally, Business Oregon awarded 35 grants in 2014, including 13 to schools. All previous awards were made by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Funding for the 2015-17 budget period was included in Senate Bill 5507.

In 2016, Business Oregon’s Infrastructure Division will accept another round of applications for the remaining $155 million, another $125 million for schools and $30 million for emergency services buildings.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

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