Representatives from nearly a dozen area print media turned up at an informational forum hosted Thursday in Greensburg by leaders of the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery Organization (SCKTRO), headquartered in Haviland.


Representatives from nearly a dozen area print media turned up at an informational forum hosted Thursday in Greensburg by leaders of the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery Organization (SCKTRO), headquartered in Haviland.
Executive director Kathleen Blair, who preaches Sundays at the Wellsford Community Church, and building coordinator James Bond began the event in Davis Park by taking turns outlining their organization’s task before the group embarked on a bus tour that exposed the journalists to several leaders and sites of the community’s post-tornado recovery.
Blair explained the group’s mission as being “here to help all storm victims but especially those with little or no insurance.” She mentioned help particularly being offered in the areas of “medical and counseling needs and repair work.”
Bond described the organization’s task as “coordinating all the agencies and resources that have been here since last May,” as well as processing the ongoing arrival of various volunteers who come and go to offer their services.
“We average 50 to 80 volunteers making themselves available on a weekday,” Bond said, “and we had 212 last weekend.” He later referred to such skilled workmen as plumbers and electricians volunteering their services as being “worth their weight in gold.”
Though Blair has no prior experience in coordinating relief efforts, Bond is somewhat of a veteran, having coordinated efforts for a span of eight months in areas hardest hit in the gulf region by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.
“Here the effort is working like it’s supposed to,” Bond said. “Down there (Louisiana and Mississippi) we had a lot of conflict between the emphases of various denominational agencies of different churches. But I told the denominational leaders here at the outset that they’d have to play nice or go home.” According to Bond those leaders, for the most part, have done just that.
Volunteer coordinator Matt Deighton said he had volunteer groups booked for appearances in the five-county disaster area through next July. Those five counties, all of which were affected to one degree or another by the May 4-5 storms are Kiowa, Comanche, Edwards, Pratt and Stafford.
Deighton also said high school students from Detroit, Michigan will be in the area soon, after having served two prior terms of volunteerism in areas hit by Katrina.
“They’re basically mudders, which means they work with sheetrock,” Deighton said.
First stop on the bus tour was at the temporary city hall where City Administrator Steve Hewitt spoke briefly before fielding several questions.
 nAsked if the prior difficulties getting additional administrative staff was easing, Hewitt said he’s got more inspectors coming on board in early October.
 “Where they’re going to stay is a good question,” he said. “Workforce housing is still a big issue for us.”
 nQuestioned on the relative patience of residents, Hewitt said “it’s been an emotional roller coaster for everyone. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, but frustrated over thinking it should go faster.”
nLater queried about a former Greensburg resident/entrepreneur who’d recently said she and her husband had decided to build a new home in the Pratt area because of hearing a number of complaints of delays in rebuilding due to the inflexibility of building inspectors and code enforcement officers in the weeks immediately following the tornado, Hewitt said he thought the individual was lacking a true and full picture of the situation in town.
 “I think she’s operating off an information gap,” Hewitt said. “I had to utilize volunteer inspectors right after the storm from around the state. They weren’t always consistent with their views, but that’s all I had to work with at the time. A lot of that’s changed recently.
“I support the codes and we’re going to ask people to build in compliance with them. Otherwise you’ll have a free-for-all and get all kinds of things put up.”
 nTold another former resident had expressed concerns over property values being dragged down because of the rising number of modular homes appearing around town, Hewitt defended the structures.
“Modular homes today are well built,” he said, “and if you drive around town a year from now you’d have a hard time telling the pre-fabricated homes from the conventional ones. So this person may be getting their impression from the past,” or reacting to an “archaic stigma” as the questioner phrased it.
The group also stopped at the USD 422 temporary school where Superintendent Darin Headrick responded to several questions.
Saying the district was in the process of “moving ahead with land acquisition” to gain a site for construction of its new K-12 campus, Headrick said the current plan was to locate along Main Street to complement the expected development of the downtown business district.
 Asked where on Main Street, Headrick said he thought it likely the new school would be located “a little bit south of here,” which would, in all probability, place the new facility on the west side of South Main, opposite the football field, and/or current FEMA mobile home settlement.
Headrick also said it would probably take at least four to five years for the school to recover its enrollment numbers in view of so many students having been lost in the lower elementary grades.
Questioned as to the areas of education that have been most adversely affected this semester by locating in the temporary facilities Headrick named four.
“I’d have to say, yes, industrial arts, weight lifting facilities, physical education and students eating (typically sandwich centered meals) at their desks.”
 He also pointed out that as the semester progresses, such shortfalls will gradually be alleviated.
 The group later toured several other sites, including the FEMA settlement southeast of town, the Kwik Shop, temporarily located hospital and Big Well.