While one more band of politicians descended on Greensburg Friday, June 15, the purpose this time around was not to offer consolation or make promises of aid.  It was, rather, to check on progress of the recovery and how efficiently prior commitments are being carried out.


While one more band of politicians descended on Greensburg Friday, June 15, the purpose this time around was not to offer consolation or make promises of aid.  It was, rather, to check on progress of the recovery and how efficiently prior commitments are being carried out.
Dubbed the legislative special interim committee on Kiowa County Disaster Relief and Recovery, the group of five house members and four senators landed at Greensburg via military helicopters shortly before 11 a.m.
Before departing for Topeka three hours later, the group visited a pair of businesses, in addition to speaking with USD 422 Superintendent Darin Headrick and City leaders.
Standing near the slab that used to support Delmer Day Elementary, Headrick told the legislators that while he doesn’t yet know where the new school facility will be located, he expects to be breaking ground for it in “less than 11 months” and to begin using the new school 18 months later, which would be November of 2009.
  As he has in the past, Headrick once again hinted at the potential for a unified educational system within the county by saying, “It’s important we look at opportunities and see if there’s a need for expanded services for the county.  We are, however, in no position to dictate to our neighbors what they do in that regard.”
A tentative date of July 11 has been set for a joint meeting between the school boards of Greensburg, Haviland and Mullinville.
Headrick handed legislators a drawing of a tentative plan for the temporary structure meant to house Greensburg students once classes begin August 15.  The plans calls for elementary, junior high and senior high sections adjacent to one another, incorporating a total of 28 temporary classrooms, four temporary offices, industrial arts building, cafeteria and temporary gym to be constructed on the slab where the practice gym once stood.
The temporary facilities are to be located on the spot where Delmer Day housed students through May 4, largely because of the infrastructure there already being in place.
 Fall sports of volleyball and football are still on schedule according to Headrick, with athletic facilities at Mullinville likely to serve as the site for Greensburg home games this coming year.
Acknowledging he and others initially considered utilizing the facilities of neighboring districts, Headrick said the folly of that approach soon became apparent.
“If we ended up sending the kids from one family to two or three different towns, the parents would have probably said, ‘We’ll just keep them all here in Coldwater,’ or wherever they’re now staying,” Headrick said.  “So we needed an approach to keep them all here in Greensburg.”
With enrollment for the past year having been around 280 for K-12, Headrick first balked when asked by Senator Ruth Teichman how many he expected back this fall.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if you had 200 of them back,” Teichman then said.  Headrick didn’t disagree with the prediction, later saying he’d be happy to have at least 60 percent back for the upcoming term.
With no students currently living in Greensburg, and uncertain how many might be living in the trailer community by August, Headrick said contact had been made with districts in Pratt, Kinsley, Bucklin, Coldwater and Haviland/Mullinville in regard to USD 422 driving buses into those towns this fall to pick up kids still living there at that time.
  Pratt, Bucklin and Kinsley have so far given written permission, while a verbal okay has been received from Haviland/Mullinville.  South Central’s school board has yet to meet in Coldwater to consider the matter.
Asked by the legislators what could have been handled better by government agencies thus far, Headrick said he couldn’t really name a deficiency, before stating what he believes will be a key need over the next several years.
  “We’re really going to need financial help from the state,” he said.  “There was millions of dollars of property value that left town over night last month.We’ll really need help in the area of lost revenues, especially in years two through four, until we get a tax base back here.”
Southern Plains Co-op general manager Ron Gruber told the group his greatest source of frustration the last six weeks has been a lack of continuity in agency officials he’s dealt with.
“One guy will tell us we have to do something a certain way, and then a week later he’s not here anymore and the guy who took his place tells us something completely different,” Gruber said.  “There’s no one opinion a lot of the time.”
  Another difficulty for the grain elevator has been waiting for the City to restore electrical power, which Gruber said was expected by Monday, June 18.
“Anything else?” asked Chairman Lee Taffanelli of Ozaki.
  “Rumors,” Gruber replied.  “One was that we had a spill of thousands of gallons of liquid fertilizer from the storm and it never happened.”
The group also visited Mike Estes of BTI Greensburg, who said of his 32 pre-tornado employees, “four or five” had departed, with several still considering if they would stay on.
  One of those lost was former parts manager Ray Stegman, whose part time status as the county’s emergency preparedness director has since turned full time.
“I hated to lose Ray, but then I was also glad to give him to the County,” Estes said.  “They really need him now.”
Interim committee member Dennis McKinney, democrat of Greensburg, said one goal of the group is to determine the additional measures the state needs to take to aid the recovery in Kiowa County, as well as what changes to governmental response to disaster need to be made.  
He said the committee would be meeting throughout the summer and fall and have a full report for the legislature next January, complete with recommendations as to what the federal and state government can do to further the ongoing recovery, as well as better address the needs in future disasters.