Though he resembles neither Sean Connery nor Pierce Brosnan, James Bond was on hand at Thursday’s working session of the Greensburg City Council to give an update on the efforts of the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery Organization (SCKTRO).
Though he resembles neither Sean Connery nor Pierce Brosnan, James Bond was on hand at Thursday’s working session of the Greensburg City Council to give an update on the efforts of the South Central Kansas Tornado Recovery Organization (SCKTRO). A native of Kansas, Bond is the housing coordinator of the group.
Despite Kathleen Blair of Haviland being the executive director of the organization, Bond often acts as spokesman for SCKTRO, in light of his having had previous experience—eight months in Katrina affected areas—directing volunteers in their offers of aid and assistance to disaster stricken locales.
While Bond was appearing in order to give definition to SCKTRO’s role in the ongoing recovery from May 4, he found himself on the defensive more than once Thursday evening, the first time in response to a complaint from FEMA mobile home community resident Jim Dowell.
Claiming he’d applied for assistance at SCKTRO’s Haviland headquarters the previous Thursday, Dowell said he was told he’d have a case worker assigned to him by the following Monday (September 24).
“It’s been eight days since and I haven’t heard a thing,” Dowell told Bond. “What’s going on over there?”
Bond explained SCKTRO has “been inundated” by the volume of requests, currently trying to juggle more than a hundred cases. “We’ll get to you as soon as we can.”
A few moments later Greensburg Mayor John Janssen asked what relationship SCKTRO has with Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s nonexistent,” Bond replied. “They came to a couple of meetings early on but haven’t been back. They haven’t been very aggressive in getting involved, and have indicated they’ve been strapped for cash.”
“I was told they were told to go away,” Janssen said.
“That didn’t come from me,” Bond said. “I didn’t tell them that.”
“I think Kathleen (Blair) did,” Janssen said. “That’s what I was told.” Janssen later indicated his source of information was a Habitat representative. He also said after the meeting financial matters have been ironed out sufficiently to allow Habitat to play a role in meeting area housing needs in the coming months.
Janssen went on to tell Bond his group would do well to improve its level of communication with the City. His comment was motivated in part by the City having recently ticketed several RV’s sitting in Davis Park, after local law enforcement had reported the out-of-county vehicles as apparent squatters.
Unbeknownst to the City, at least some of the visitors had shown up in Kiowa County to offer assistance and were not told by SCKTRO they could not camp in the city park without seeking a permit. SCKTRO, at the same time, failed to inform the City of the nature of the campers’ visit.
“Your group has been off the radar screen for quite some time,” Janssen said. “I think we need a memorandum of understanding between you and us so we can keep up on what your group is doing.”
Bond then indicated at least a share of the blame for the seeming disconnect lies with the City, saying a meeting he’d attempted to have with Hewitt “six to eight weeks ago” simply “fell through.” Hewitt replied the City would be willing to establish a memorandum of understanding with SCKTRO.
FEMA settlement residents being pushed out?
Jim Dowell later addressed the council, saying residents in the FEMA mobile home community would be pushed out “in 13 months” when he claimed the settlement will be closed.
Hewitt confirmed later, however, the original terms of residence in the community laid out by FEMA officials in July are still in effect. Those terms make it clear that residents are entitled to stay in the settlement rent free for the initial 18 months of their presence, and can stay beyond that, though they would be charged the area’s going rate of rent to do so.
Asked how Dowell might have gotten the impression of a “13 month” deadline, Hewitt answered, “I don’t know. People misunderstand if they think that, and they misunderstand if they think they have to leave 18 months after moving in. They can stay longer than that, though they’ll have to pay a rent that’s the average in that area for that type of dwelling.”
As for why he or someone on council didn’t correct Dowell’s misinformation at Thursday’s working session, Hewitt replied, “Sometimes it’s best to let people say their peace. I may have someone from FEMA come in to a meeting soon to reiterate the real timeline for staying there.”
When Dowell said the City wasn’t doing enough to encourage “FEMAville” residents to resettle in Greensburg once their time in the mobile home community is up, Janssen asked, “What aren’t we doing?”
“You’re spending money on Picard (John, lead designer of the master plan for recovery) and these other guys instead of where it should be going,” Dowell said.
Councilman Gary Goodheart later told Dowell, “I don’t understand what you mean about a connection between Greensburg and FEMAville.”
“I know you don’t, Gary,” Dowell replied. “There’s very little you do understand.”
Townhomes open to younger people…
Jay Manske, of Manske Development, appeared to say Prairie Pointe Townhomes will now make up only 16 of the 32 units to be built this fall and winter on the former site of Greensburg High School, and will continue to be open only to those 55 and older. The other 16, on the eastern half of the lot, will be called Oak View Townhomes, and be available for general occupancy. The same income guidelines, however, will be in effect.
“Investors in the project were concerned if there would be enough elderly couples to fill up all 32 units,” Manske said. “So we decided to split it up to give younger people a chance at some of them. This will give us the kind of flexibility the investors seem to want.”
Manske said an advantage of the new alignment is a reduction in rent, whereby one bedroom units will now go for $385 a month for those qualifying; $400 for two bedroom, and $450 for the three-bedroom units.
Manske further said he’d be meeting with the contractor in the next several days and hoped construction could start “within the next couple of weeks.” The first portion of the development to be completed will be the community room, which Manske said should be finished “by the end of January.”
Dirt Band next spring…
While Manske had been working on a date for a benefit concert by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band this fall, he reported scheduling complications have likely moved the event back to next spring.
“We were running out of time for an outdoor event, but the band is still interested, so I’m sure we can find a time next spring for this,” Manske said.