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Floyd County supervisors review tornado response, law enforcement center options

By Bob Steenson,

The number of Floyd County homes found to have been irreparably damaged by last week’s Memorial Day tornado has been raised to four.

Emergency Management Agency Director Lezlie Weber gave a damage and recovery update at the Floyd County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday morning.

Also at the meeting, Supervisor Linda Tjaden gave an update on the law enforcement center and courthouse project, saying there is a chance all county courthouse departments could temporarily relocate offsite while work is being done on the courthouse.

Regarding tornado damage, Weber said initially it was thought that three homes had received so much damage that they would have to be demolished and rebuilt, but further evaluation identified an additional home in the 155th Street area in the northeast part of the county.

“We still, as far as I’m aware, have 11 properties with damage,” Weber said. “It was originally thought that we only had three houses destroyed, but it is actually now up to four.

“One of the houses on 155th Street, you can’t see it from the road, but they actually got quite a bit of damage,” she said. “Their house kind of twisted almost. … They are still going through the process of claims and adjustments, but they’re thinking it may be a total loss on their house just because of structural damage.”

Weber talked a little bit about the county’s response, saying the emergency operations center (EOC) was activated and began notifying “everyone that we could.”

“Then as the first response started winding down we decreased the number of personnel in the EOC. I think we were probably open five or six hours, and then I went into basically a one-person show again,” Weber said.

“There was a great volunteer response from everyone,” she said. Most of the houses with damage had family and friends show up and help them out.

Supervisor Tjaden added, “And churches, or Mennonite organizations. I was very impressed by some of these groups that immediately tried to assist.”

Weber said most of the damage in the Wandering Acres area that was hardest hit has been cleaned up, except for one property that had mostly tree damage and the owners want to wait until it dries up a little more before going in and cutting up the downed trees.

Tjaden said one question that was raised is what people in the county can do with all the trees that are damaged, and that’s something that should be discussed before the next severe storm.

Tjaden also said the county is fortunate because the Charles City Lions Club happens to be in the middle of a scrap metal drive as a fundraiser, and took care of the metal scrap that was generated by the EF-1 tornado damage.

Denny Tynan, of Denny’s Recycling, which was working with the Lion’s Club, “really stepped up to the plate and helped with all that metal,” Tjaden said.

Also at the supervisors workshop meeting Monday, Tjaden gave an update on the law enforcement center and courthouse project.
She said she had been working previously on finding a spot away from the courthouse to temporarily relocate at least the district court while noisy construction was going on in or near the courthouse.

The county has been talking with the Charles City School District and a developer who is purchasing the 500 N. Grand Ave. property about the possibility of moving the courtroom and other judicial offices to the former middle school building, Tjaden said.

“But is there a possibility for everyone to relocate there?” she asked.

Tjaden said The Samuels Group, the county’s construction manager firm, said it might be more efficient to have unrestricted access to the entire courthouse for about four months to finish the work there, rather than having to work around departments, employees and the public for six months or longer.

Even though many courthouse offices won’t see much change in who works there or in the layout, the construction crews will still need access to every room to install new windows, new heating and air conditioning systems, sprinklers, and other changes, she said.

The question will be whether the savings on construction time will be enough to compensate for the extra cost of temporarily relocating every department.

Tjaden said she had contacted Shawn Foutch, the Johnston developer who is in the process of purchasing the North Grand Building to be partially renovated into residential apartments and he indicated his development timeline would likely work with the county’s schedule.

She said that she and County Auditor Gloria Carr would likely take some of the country department heads to the former middle school building.

“We’ll show them around to where we believe might be a good location for them to relocate, get their feedback and buy-in on it,” Tjaden said.

“From that point, then, I would have to work with Shawn and get some kind of a contract together as to what this might cost. And then absolutely it will be brought back to the board for board approval,” she said.