Charleston disaster response committee holds public hearing

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Members of the Interim Committee on Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery held a public hearing in Charleston on Monday afternoon, receiving public input on the state's handling of recent disasters.

Only a handful of people were in attendance to testify before Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and state representatives Steve Hodges and Don Gosen at the Clara Drinkwater Newman Public Library.

While Monday's hearing was small, the committee still heard testimony of how state agencies helped local law enforcement during last year's flood.

Charleston director of public safety Bob Hearnes said that while Charleston has had its fair share of trials and tribulations with the ice storm and flood, "the state has helped us as well as anybody could expect."

Hearnes also commented on how well all the local law enforcement agencies worked together, saying it will help make them more prepared in the future.

The blowing of the levees was explained to Gosen, who was visiting from his district in St. Louis.

"We were all scared the damage would be much worse than it was," Kinder said.

Hodges also explained to Gosen the process of rebuilding the levee, which is underway.

"There has been a commitment made and the funds are there to have [the new levee] finished by the end of the year," Hodges told Gosen.

An update was given to the committee from the city of Charleston's receiving money from the state and federal emergency management agencies to help with damage done from the flooding, which included the replacing of sewer lines around town.

Meanwhile, Donna Morris from Mini Farms Homeowners Association explained the troubles the subdivision is having with drainage and her dealings with the Missouri Department of Transportation, which has not been any help.

"If we don't get drainage at HH, we will be right back into the same spot," Morris said.

She also showed the committee an aerial shot of the flood in which the area north of Route HH was underwater and south of HH was dry.

"They were playing golf at Bootheel [Golf Course] while I had 17 inches of water in my back yard," Morris said.

Morris explained to the committee that the Association is a proactive subdivision and tries to take care of things themselves by paying dues and having fundraisers but they are still in need of help.

The hearing was the third, with the first held in Joplin and the second in St. Louis, where the committee heard testimony from tornado victim from both places. Local law enforcement as well as officials from local counties were all invited to come and testify at the hearing.

"They all must be pretty satisfied with the state's response," Kinder joked at the low turnout.

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