Storm damage assessment nearing completion

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

With the assessment team winding down its work, it appears that about 100 homes and businesses sustained damage from last week’s severe thunderstorm.

That storm, which dropped between 6 and 7 inches of rain in less than two hours, caused severe flooding throughout town. High winds during that storm also contributed to the damage.

Merle Adermann, the city’s fire chief and Emergency Management Agency coordinator, told the Vandalia City Council on Tuesday night that the damage assessment team had met three times to pull together damage reports.

“Close to 100 homeowners and businesses have filed report damages,” Adermann said, adding that the damage assessment team will be meeting again this Thursday.

At that meeting, he said, the team hopes to finalize a comprehensive damage report that it will submit to the state.

In filing that report, the city will be attempting to procure financial assistance from the state to take care of damage caused to local homes and businesses.

In addition to damage from flooding and high winds, Adermann said, some homes and businesses experience water and sewer backup in their structures, he said.

“A lot of damage was done to washers, dryers, furnaces and water heaters that were in basements, but there are also people who have finished basements that have some damage,” Adermann said.

Those who sustained significant damage include Donaldson’s Carpet at Eighth and Randolph streets and the Regional Office of Education’s Alternative Education building off of Sunset Drive, Adermann said.

Andy Craig’s 10-foot culvert and rail line north of Randolph Street were damaged, and his warehouse facilities experienced substantial flooding.

The city garage, located just east of Craig’s property, had about 18 inches of water inside, and two city squad cars parked outside the garage were damaged when they were submerged in flood waters.

“Now, we’re just waiting to see if we qualify for assistance,” Adermann said.

In addition to Adermann, those serving on the damage assessment team include city Code Official Keith Meadows, city Police Chief Larry Eason, Mayor Rick Gottman and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency coordinator Steve Koehler.

The damage reports include those accepted by the staff of City Clerk Peggy Bowen and ones prepared by Adermann and Meadows as they canvassed areas having known property damage.

During the discussion on the flooding, Gottman said he felt the need to clarify that the city does not own the town branch.

The city does own a small amount of property along the town branch, he said, but most of it is privately owned.

Therefore, he said, “We can’t go in and dig it out.”

Also at Monday’s meeting:

• Gottman reported that he and Fayette County Board Chairman Steve Knebel are working to set up a public meeting on the proposed expansion of U.S. Route 51 to four lanes through Vandalia.

Gottman said that he plans to invite to that meeting state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), state Rep. Ron Stephens and U.S. Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill., 19th District), so those elected officials can hear concerns about the proposed route, which would go through a number of residential subdivisions on the city’s north side.

• The council agreed to hold off on proposed concrete repairs to the dam at the  Lake, just north of the spillway.

The council was presented with a $4,535.03 estimate from Precise Construction of Vandalia, but Alderman Jerry Swarm asked whether the city had solicited more than one estimate for the work. Gottman said he wasn’t sure.

City Attorney Jack Johnston said the council could legally act on the matter at the meeting, but said it would probably be a good idea to get a clarification on the process that was followed to get the lone estimate.

• The council heard an update from Chris Stone of Government Consulting Solutions, the Springfield firm the city has hired to lobby on its behalf at the state capitol.

Stone said his group has been successful at lobbying to get the Vandalia Correctional Center back to full capacity, or about 200 inmates about his firm’s goal of 1,350.

Stone also reported that the consultant has continued to work at getting the state to pays it water bills for Vandalia Correctional Center.

The state, he said, is running about 90 days behind on those bills, while it is commonly running about 200 days behind on all of its bills.

Gottman reported that the city recently received three checks totaling $13,173 from the state for water service to VCC.

• Gottman reported that thus far, 48 hourly city employees have taken furlough hours, and that the furlough hour total now stands at 716.

Under an agreement reached by the city and union’s representing hourly employees, those employees will take 1,728 furlough hours.

• The council approved a request from Eason for a payment of $2,254.60 to the Illinois State Police.

That payment is for a five-week crime scene investigation course to be taken by police Detective Todd Wagner. That Payment includes room and board.

Eason explained that the state training board will refund half of the cost of the class and mileage, which will total about $1,130.

Also, he said, the city has received a $440.18 check from the South Central Illinois Regional Planning & Development Commission for a Starcom radio grant, and that the grant funds can be applied to the course payment.

The city’s police department will ultimately be paying $687.12, but Wagner will receive a forensics kit valued at more than $400 and a laptop valued at more than $400.

• The council approved two lease agreements with the Fayette County Health Department as the department prepares for its move into the former home of Leo Brown Lumber in the 400 block of West Edwards Street.

One of the agreements covers the former Illinois Central Gulf Railroad right of way that runs through the property, and the other covers right of way on the south side of Edwards Street.

• The council observed a moment of silence for Alma Meyer, Bowen’s mother.

• Bowen reported that the Vandalia Lake Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 17.