By Alice Ortiz
SMITHVILLE – Gov. Phil Bryant and first lady Deborah Bryant were in Smithville’s dome gymnasium Friday morning where he presented a check for $1,395,751 for its construction.
“This is an amazing facility,” the governor said. “It can house 3,000 people and withstand over 260-mile-per-hour winds. In addition to being a safe house for Smithville and Monroe County residents, it serves as a place for sports activities.”
Phil Bryant told the assembled group that the dome, financed with help from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, would serve generations to come.
“I was here the day after the EF5 tornado hit Smithville and it was the most devastation I had seen since Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “People said forget about Smithville. It will not be back. But I said it will be back better than ever, and, it is.”
The April 27, 2011, storm killed 16 people and destroyed most businesses, four churches and 153 homes in the town.
“I talked to my wife, Deborah, and told her Smithville needed a lot of help, but I couldn’t be here the way I needed to be to help out,” Bryant said. “Deborah has been up here a lot and Smithville has adopted her and she has adopted Smithville. She loves this town and the people so much.”
“It is such an honor to be back in Smithville,” said Deborah Bryant. “You all don’t know how much you mean to me. Part of my heart is here. It is wonderful to see this gym come to fruition and know it will always be here.”
Monroe County Superintendent of Education Scott Cantrell said the money covered the construction phase. The school district already has received $90,000 for the first phase, which covered design, architecture and engineering.
“Our project manager, Leo Wood, knew about a hazard mitigation program grant and he helped us apply for it,” said Cantrell. “It was a very lengthy process, but was worth the $1.5 million grant.”