Tuesday, April 13, 1999
Government tries to get back to normal
'Not crippled by any means'
BY WALT SCHAEFER and LISA DONOVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Officials in Blue Ash and Montgomery are trying to get back to the business of running their cities.
They say there was life before the tornado and there is life after: garbage pickup, road construction projects, regular street patrol.
We're still doing that, it's just that we may be a little slower to respond or return calls right away, Blue Ash Deputy City Manager Bruce Henry said. We're not crippled by any means. We're still going full bore.
Said Montgomery Mayor Richard Tuten: "Normal' does not return in a day or two. We have people fatigued both physically and emotionally. There are workers who have been traumatized.
One of our firefighters I will not name him went home after a 16-hour shift and cried like a baby. I shed tears myself after people called to tell me some of the things that have happened.
And the emotional toll this storm has taken on those who live and work in these communities isn't the only thing officials are concerned about. Ohio Senate President Richard Finan said Monday he expects communities to face budget troubles this year as a result of massive clean-up efforts.
Communities just throw all their resources in. Some of those communities don't have the budget, the Evendale Republican said, adding that communities can't possibly budget for something like a tornado.
Most city leaders say the storm hasn't pushed them into the red. But it's still early in the fiscal year.
Mr. Tuten said city finances are not an immediate concern to Montgomery leaders. City council has passed legislation that allows the city manager to draw up to $500,000 for emergency use without council approval in such disasters.
Other communities will pay for the manpower and equipment sent to help out.
Mr. Henry said he hopes there is a method to repay some of these communities that stepped in and helped residents and business owners in Blue Ash.
We're not, at this point, sure there is a possibility of that, he said.
Blue Ash has a contingency fund, but has not had to dip into it yet.
For us, right now, there's not an immediate issue because we're early in the fiscal year, but at some point the expendi tures we're making today will have to be dealt with.
On Friday and Saturday alone, the city spent $150,000 on everything from overtime for police to bringing in extra public works crews for cleanup.
Homeowners insurance carriers will help families rebuild and low-interest government loans will be available to those who need them, Mr. Tuten said. The city's burden will be the cost of cleanup and damage sustained at its public works building off Cornell Road, which was still being used by cleanup crews.
No matter, Mayor Tuten said. We are, obviously, going to do whatever it takes to recover, no matter what it takes.
Meanwhile, at MontgomeryCity Hall, a bit of ordinary business crept back in the wake of chaos Monday.
It's pretty much back to business there, City Manager Cheryl Hilvert said. There was no power there Friday and all of our workers there were doing other emergency jobs at the command post at the safety building.
But today, people are filing their taxes, paying bills. We are paying the city's bills and get ting our paychecks out. Our building inspectors are out doing some inspections in places not hit by the tornado but, at a slower pace until we get things back on line.
Fire Chief Paul Wright said emotions take as much or more of a toll on emergency personnel as physical fatigue.
You sleep four hours or so, and then you wake up thinking about things that need to be done, stuff you want to do the emotional side of it keeps you awake, he said.
However, the fire department was providing all services Monday without mutual aid from other jurisdictions. We are on our own now. Mutual aid stopped Sunday afternoon, the chief said.
The contingent of seven full-time and 30 part-time firefighters has been divided to provide basic services to the community while maintaining a life squad at the tornado scene and a storm command center with four firefighters at the safety building, Hopewell an Montgomery roads.
Lucy May contributed to this report.
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