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Oskaloosa city leaders wrestle with joining county mitigation plan

by Dennis Sharkey

The Oskaloosa City Council has been mulling over an emergency mitigation plan constructed by the county for a couple of months but the debate may have exposed a need for a new plan.

The mitigation plan was compiled by Jefferson County Emergency Manager Doug Schmitt with the help of a federal grant. The plan is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency if a disaster strikes. A mitigation plan is a map for county officials to follow to minimize effects of a disaster on local residents.

The plan also requires each individual taxing district in the county to sign off on the plan and to have a local plan that is part of the bigger holistic plan.

So far the city of McLouth and some local school districts have approved the plan.

But Oskaloosa city leaders are a little hesitant about approving the plan. Some think that language in the plan will require the city to spend thousands if not millions of dollars on a shelter.

The city doesn’t have an officially designated shelter, although many of the local churches have said they would open their doors. The school could be used unless school is in session and full of children.

Councilman Gary Bryant said before he signs onto any plan that may require the city to spend money he wants to consult the citizenry.

“I think before we actually start committing ourselves, even possibly committing ourselves to $1 million toward building tornado shelters, we should at least ask the community,” he said.

Councilman Mike Paavola said the city could be put into a peculiar situation either way.

“It’s kind of a doubled edged sword,” Paavola said. “You may not get the funding but if you sign it you’re going to get forced into doing it so you’re going to spend more money.”

Mayor Mike Boyd said that when Schmitt met with the council last month he said the city would not be bound to spending any money to construct a shelter.

Paavola said Schmitt may believe that but he’s not taking the information at face value.

“That’s what he’s saying and that’s probably what he’s being told but I don’t buy that,” Paavola said. “I’ve been down that road before.”

Paavola used the example of the old city lake.

Council people John Norman and Kathy Griffin said they were both confused by what Schmitt told them during the meeting. Norman said he wished there was a simpler way it could be explained.

“I don’t know that I understand it,” Norman said. “I don’t know what it’s dictating and what it’s not.

“You don’t know what you’re held to or not held to if you sign it,” Norman added.

“I thought that it was odd that he couldn’t be real specific,” Griffin said. “Nothing ever really got described.”

Norman agreed with Paavola but said he also didn’t want to potentially pass on an opportunity for the city.

“I don’t want to short the citizens from an opportunity,” Norman said. “But I also don’t want them to have to pay a big price for an opportunity.”

Bryant said the city might miss the opportunity anyway. He pointed to local natural disasters in the Midwest this year that are not receiving funds from the federal government.

“Sounds like in Joplin, Missouri, the funds aren’t available anyway,” Bryant said.

Norman said the city might not be ready to agree to the plan because several local questions need to be answered. He said the second step might be preceding the first step.

“It seems like we need our own emergency plan before we get into this,” Norman said.

Boyd said the council developed a plan in 2008 but it was never updated and that he is the only one left from that council. He said the plan included who was to do what and when and had phone numbers for all the contacts.

Bryant suggested a community town hall meeting to address the issue.

Short URL: http://www.jeffcountynews.com/?p=10659

Posted by on Nov 8 2011. Filed under Government, Municipalities, Oskaloosa. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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