Plans are underway to convert Kansas University's Robinson Center gymnasium into an emergency shelter to house up to 250 victims of Hurricane Katrina for up to 30 days.
A group of city, county and university leaders tentatively agreed this morning that Robinson could drafted into service as a shelter, if the state of Kansas receives more than the 4,250 evacuees that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has committed the state to take.
Officials are expected to finalize the decision this afternoon. The Douglas County Fairgrounds also is being considered as a possible shelter site, if Robinson is found to be unsuitable.
Paula Phillips, director of Douglas County Emergency Preparedness, told a group of more than 50 public service and nonprofit leaders this morning that it was still uncertain the city would receive evacuees. But Phillips said she believed it likely that Lawrence would be called into action.
The state expects to receive 24 hours notice once evacuees are on their way. Phillips originally had said that the evacuees likely would come from Texas, but said plans now indicate that they could be some of the last people out of New Orleans.
Members of the group that met this morning at the Douglas County United Way offices broke into subcommittees to begin working on issues related to obtaining necessary bedding, toiletries, and other necessities to stock the shelter. City, county and public health officials also began working on staffing plans. It is estimated that the shelter will need to be continuously staffed by about 10 people, ranging from mental health and medical professionals to police officers. Officials also will be working on plans for how volunteers can help.
City Commissioner Sue Hack, who has been designated as a spokeswoman for the effort, said KU officials do not believe they will have to cancel any classes as part of the effort. She said only two classes were held in the gymnasium that is slated for sleeping quarters, and KU officials believed those classes could be relocated. Hack said leaders were leaning towards Robinson as a shelter site because it had adequate shower and restroom facilities and that food could be brought to the location from Kansas University cafeterias.
Phillips said she did not have a timeline to know whether Lawrence would be called into action. She said Iowa this morning had been given 24 hours notice that evacuees are on the way to that state. Kansas is thought to be next on the list.
"I could get the phone call (giving 24 hours notice) in five minutes or in five days," Phillips said.
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