Friday, April 8, 2016

Lawmakers approve $175M to earthquake-proof schools

Oregon lawmakers approved a record $175 million to make sure Oregon schools stay standing in a major earthquake.
Two years ago, Salem's Highland Elementary School underwent a 10-week long seismic "strengthening" so that in the event of a major magnitude nine earthquake, the school would stay standing.
"What a wonderful feeling to know our building is safe," said school principal Christi Cheever. "If that big earthquake hit, our kids would be safe and our building would be standing."
Over the last six years, Oregon lawmakers have approved $34 million in grants to fund seismic upgrades at 37 schools. But Senate President Peter Courtney says that's still not nearly enough.
"Only in the last six years has the money started going out and it hasn't gone out to the extent it could,"  he said.
But things are changing.
Oregon lawmakers approved a record $175 million to seismically upgrade schools across the state. More than 100 schools will be retrofitted to withstand "the big one."
"This quake is coming," said Courtney. "The magnitude will be nine or greater... it will be like nothing we've seen."
A 2007 survey by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries listed more than 1,000 Oregon school buildings at “high” or “very high” risk of collapsing in a magnitude nine quake. Most were built before scientists knew the Pacific Northwest was due for a major earthquake.
Courtney says this money is a start, but we are far from finished.
"It's a small part of the incredible amount of work that we have to do, the money we will have to spend to get ready for this hit," he said.
The $175 million will be allocated in two rounds.
$50 million will be spent in the first round and go to seismically retrofit 41 schools.
The remaining $125 million will be rolled out later in the year.
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