West Point mayor addresses storm shelter concerns

West Point Mayor Gerald Schafer (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

WEST POINT, Ala. – As tornado sirens blared unexpectedly Saturday evening throughout Cullman County, residents immediately sought shelter from the menacing storms. The Tribune received several complaints from residents seeking refuge in West Point who found the storm shelter at West Point Town Hall locked.

West Point Mayor Gerald Schafer said he was on vacation when he first received word that Cullman was under a tornado warning.

He explained, “The park director, he was on vacation, and that’s something we just didn’t think about.”

Schafer said he called the Mayor Pro Tem Timmy Smith, who went out and unlocked the shelter.

Schafer continued, “The storm shelter down at the fire station, which is West Point’s storm shelter, it was open and it is less than a half mile from the storm shelter at the town hall.”

He said with personnel at the fire station at all times, the storm shelter located there remains open at all times.

“The way I understand it, there were not many people there and the capacity on it is 96 people. There were just a few vehicles down there but plenty of room in that one,” Schafer said.

When severe weather is expected, Schafer and other town officials would typically have both shelters unlocked.

“This was an unusual situation where the ones that were responsible and usually does it were on vacation,” said the mayor. “I hadn’t thought about it but I will address this at the next council meeting. I’ll make sure if I go out of town again that one of them just goes and opens it up.”

In the past, both shelters remained unlocked, but due to vandalism, the Town made the decision to keep the shelter at its town hall locked.

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