Editor’s Note: Originally from the Greensburg area, Steve Hewitt came back home in a sense a year ago to take the city administrator position, leaving a position as recreation and parks supervisor in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Taking a considerable cut in pay to do so, Hewitt was somewhat rewarded by his city council yesterday afternoon for his work over the past 11 months, having his contract extended another year and his pay increased from $49,000 to $55,000 a year. 

Editor’s Note: Originally from the Greensburg area, Steve Hewitt came back home in a sense a year ago to take the city administrator position, leaving a position as recreation and parks supervisor in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Taking a considerable cut in pay to do so, Hewitt was somewhat rewarded by his city council yesterday afternoon for his work over the past 11 months, having his contract extended another year and his pay increased from $49,000 to $55,000 a year.
Often the face of Greensburg on television since the day after the May 4 tornado, Hewitt has “made us look pretty smart for having hired you,” as one councilman told him yesterday. Hewitt took a few moments to comment on the City’s progress to date in recovering from the devastating storm.
Signal: What does it mean to you at this point to have the council renew your contract and give you a 12 percent raise?
Hewitt: I think it means council has faith in what I’m doing, and that they believe that what we’ve tried to accomplish in the last year has been in a positive direction. I feel it’s important for us to have some stability in these next couple of months because it’s going to be a hard road. We’ve got some tough decisions to make and I think council can feel comfortable in my making some of those. It’s very humbling. I think the council and mayor are convinced I’m doing the best I can and I’ll continue to do the best I can.
Signal: Rumors keep circulating in regard to Bill Gates intending to donate money to Greensburg’s recovery effort. What have you heard along those lines?
Hewitt: Like you, we hear a lot of rumors here at city hall but I’ve got no confirmation on any major donations of that type. I’ve heard the rumors, and I consider them just that until someone actually contacts our city office.
Signal: What’s the latest on the progress with restoration of utilities?
Hewitt: We’re got temporary power to city hall and courthouse area. We’ve got power to a water well, we’re pumping water and finding leaks, but that’s one of the issues you’ve got to go through in a disaster like this. By Tuesday we expect to have electricity to the temporary hospital, and continue to work our way west to the Carriage House (assisted living facility for seniors on southwest side of town) and get them up and running soon since they employ quite a few people as does the Iroquois Center (four-county mental health center on southeast side of town). We hope to have Iroquois up and running by the end of the week, so we can actually have people working here again by then.
Signal: Is the condition of Carriage House and Iroquois buildings good enough to allow them to function once you do get power to them?
Hewitt: What we know at this point in time is Carriage House says they just have slight damage and expect to be open very soon. I mean that’s 25 jobs over there, and that’s very important to this community right now. Iroquois doesn’t seem to have extensive damage, so as soon as we can get power to them they can get in to do some repairs and get up and functioning soon.
Signal: You said last week your plan was to get water and electricity early on to an area where you can set up temporary housing in FEMA trailers. Do you have that area defined?
Hewitt: We have two areas. The initial area we expect to be on Davis Park on the softball fields. Some people may be concerned about having those trailers there, but according to FEMA they have to rebuild the ball fields later and put them back in prior condition, and they may be in better shape with the Kansas City Royals coming in this week to help with the ball fields. But that’s a good location with water and electricity there. Hopefully we can get 25 to 30 temporary trailers in that area.
Signal: To house how many?
Hewitt: Well it depends on size of the families, two people to a trailer with 30 trailers, you’re talking about 60.
Signal: These are the small trailers?
Hewitt: These are the smaller travel trailers, so that maybe we can start housing some of the hospital and Iroquois people here in town—those people who need to work here every day. This is very essential since we want to start getting our key employees back into town, such as county employees, law enforcement people, and so forth.
Signal: Best case scenario when you’ll have that up and going?
Hewitt: Next two weeks, I expect.
Signal: How long do you expect people to be located there on that site?
Hewitt: I don’t expect it to be more than a couple of months, because FEMA has been working with the landowner on the subdivision south of town, where more than 500 units could be located. (Mullinville developer Dale Hayse had purchased a quarter section on southeast edge of town two years and had built two model homes last year in an effort to develop a new housing subdivision unit. Both model homes were blown away in the storm.) Ninnescah Electric has electricity coming in from the south, water and sewer is there (from previous work done by city and developer to prepare for subdivision’s development). So we’re going to go down Main Street with our water, get it to that site, and then that will be a permanent site with large trailers to house families. We’ll even have storm cellars in there. We can do some neat things such as having a playground.
Signal: This will be the main place to house people on a longer-term basis?
Hewitt: The main place, to house folks for probably 18 months, because as people build and rebuild homes they’ll filter out of there into their new homes.
Signal: So you or the City didn’t have to negotiate this with Hayse?
Hewitt: FEMA works directly with the owner. We just get them with the owner and they negotiate that.
Signal: Will this community in the subdivision involve the big double-wides?
Hewitt: I don’t know. I believe they’re going to be the bigger, single wides.
Signal: When will this settlement area be ready to go?
Hewitt: We hope to have the infrastructure there in a month so that we can then start to get trailers in place.
Signal: What’s the maximum number of people you might have out there?
Hewitt: I don’t know an exact number at this point in time, but I’m told 500 people could be in that area, maybe more.
Signal: So obviously there won’t be any baseball or softball played on Greensburg’s fields this summer?
Hewitt: Not this summer, but hopefully by next summer we’ll have a whole new ball complex.
Signal: Are the Royals bringing a check when they come out?
Hewitt: Last I heard was between $15,000 and $25,000, and we’re expecting a commitment from them in helping us redo our complex out there.
Signal: So this is one more area of town that will be bigger and better once reconstruction begins to take shape?
Hewitt: Exactly. This place will look very different a year from now, and especially two years from now. Much different, of course, from what it looks like now, and also from it was before May 4.