Village officials meet for flood relief update

| July 24, 2019

WEST LAFAYETTE – West Lafayette village officials met Tuesday evening, July 23 at the Kirk Street Event Center to discuss ideas for responding to local disasters more efficiently. After the June flood in the village, Mayor Steve Bordenkircher hopes to compile a disaster relief guide for any future events that may occur.

“I am very proud of our police department and our fire department in dealing with this emergency,” said Bordenkircher. “They worked very well together. They got everyone evacuated and to the shelters and they did very well.”

When the June 19 flood hit the village, West Lafayette stayed under an emergency state for two days. Thursday afternoon, they moved to recovery phase.

“When we got into the recovery portion, things became more difficult,” said Bordenkircher. “A lot of the stuff that came up, we had no clue what to do. We weren’t prepared for that.”

The mayor also said he received multiple calls each day from people who wanted to help but was warned not to accept help from unvetted sources due to the possibility of scams. Bordenkircher hopes to improve knowledge of volunteer organizations so they might be able to move into the village quicker after a disaster. He is hoping to find someone who would be interested to develop a list of vetted volunteer organizations.

“I want to have a current list so that when disaster strikes, we have something to go to,” said Bordenkircher. “So it’s not just a hodge podge of people coming together. I hate to have a guy come in to help people clear out a house and they really clear out everything.”

Bordenkircher said his office used every piece of communication available to them during the crisis including social media, the radio, newspapers, CodeRed, and telephone, and there were still people who didn’t know there was a state of emergency declared in the village.

“There was one family who were on vacation and came back and found their basement flooded,” said Bordenkircher. “They called our office and wondered what had happened, and we told them about the situation here. They didn’t know we had had flooding.”

Bordenkircher also said that for the village of West Lafayette to receive CodeRed for the village only, the cost would be $1,700 and an additional $500 for each township. Only village officials would have access to the system and it could be used for road closures, flushing hydrants, and more.

“I’m convinced it’s worth the $1,700 to do it and the $500 for each township,” said Bordenkircher. “I think it’s a cheap way to improve our communications.”

The mayor also said he would like to establish a call center to handle calls from people who need help in a crisis situation, to help organize vetted organizations to help, and get help to people who have been displaced. The mayor said he answered at least 70 calls each day for about five days and a call center would help alleviate that. He mentioned two call centers he is aware of and said it would be $25 to $30 a month to run.

“The call center needs to be placed with a good Wi-Fi and a good workspace and for the first couple of days after a disaster, it would need to be 24/7,” said Bordenkircher.

With roads in the village completely wiped out by the flood, Bordenkircher hopes to compile a list of needed equipment during a crisis, whether that is dump trucks, front-end loaders, or water pumps.

“Newcomerstown loaded a fairly new front-end loader in a truck and had it here in an hour and let us keep it for four days,” said Bordenkircher. “I’d like to develop a team that focuses just on equipment, how to get it and reaching out to other areas.”

The emergency shelter at the Baptist Church was open for 36 hours to house displaced residents.

“We may have a situation where these people need shelter for many days,” said Bordenkircher. “How do we get those up and running and what are some alternatives?”

One of the complaints the mayor’s office received was that door-to-door assessments were not conducted after the flood.

“This is an area where I’m at a total loss,” said Bordenkircher. “I don’t know how to deal with it. We need to figure out how to deal with the safety of our citizens if this ever happens again. It’s an area I felt we fell short in, so how do we get better? We need to come up with a way to rapidly assess the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens and where the damage is at.”

The mayor tasked the police and fire departments with creating a plan for door-to-door assessment.

The mayor also discussed clean up and how to know who to call for help to assist with clean up. He said that cleaning supplies dispensaries were kept open for three weeks and that many people donated cleaning supplies including Keim Lumber, Colgate in Cambridge, and local organizations.

Bordenkircher contacted legislators under Coshocton County jurisdiction and only heard from Rep. Larry Householder, who provided 43 dumpsters to help with clean up efforts. All other legislators either did not return his call or said there was nothing they could do to help.

The mayor would also like to establish a public information officer in times of disaster.

“This time, it was me and Rob McMasters, and it worked okay, but it took up a lot of my time,” said Bordenkircher. “I walked off of my full-time job for four days because this took up so much of my time.”

Basement pumping was the village’s biggest problem they encountered. With more than 100 basements flooded, the fire department spent four days pumping water out of basements.

The mayor said they were blessed to have meals provided to them through Dari Hut, JB BBQ, and Home Loan who gave away food in the days after the flood.

“It’s really a blessing to have a community come together in ways I never dreamed of,” said Bordenkircher. “I’m blessed to live in a place like this.”

The mayor also mentioned concerns with utilities such as well fields, sewers, and retention lagoons, which also led to health concerns.

“We had people mucking basements, septic systems came up into houses, and people were out working in this,” said Bordenkircher.

The mayor hopes to have a written disaster preparedness document in place by the end of the year.

“If this ever happens again, we will have a far better understanding to help our families than we did this time the second time around,” said Bordenkircher. “This was a learning experience. If we’re not prepared, it could be a lot worse. My goal is to be prepared for the future.”

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Category: Government

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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