Fairfax tornado spawns disaster proclamation

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Osage County commissioners Tuesday morning approved a disaster emergency proclamation in the aftermath of a tornado that struck the Fairfax community Sunday evening.

The commissioners approved the proclamation by a 3-0 vote, and at the urging of Jerry Roberts, director of Osage County Emergency Management. Roberts said state officials were asking for the proclamation, so it could be forwarded to Gov. Mary Fallin.

The commissioners also petitioned for divine help Tuesday morning, with board chair Kevin Paslay praying, “that we would all join together all over our county.”

Roberts and the commissioners asked District Attorney Rex Duncan if it would be permissible to proceed with a vote on the disaster emergency declaration, given that they had no specific agenda item on the subject.

“I think you can go ahead and do it under the circumstances,” Duncan said.

Roberts commented on the strong responses by Indian Electric and Miller EMS to the emergency situation. District 3 Commissioner Darrin McKinney, who represents the Fairfax area, voiced thanks to everyone who helped with the cleanup.

Jerry Butterbaugh, a Fairfax resident who is a frequent attendee at county board meetings, shared with the commissioners how the storm is affecting him personally, and pleaded with county officials to consider the potential for ongoing negative impacts from the storm.

Butterbaugh said he and his wife several years ago bought an old Fairfax building commonly known as “the old Otasco store,” in which they have invested more than $20,000. That includes some $10,000 for a new roof, he said. Butterbaugh said the tornado tore up the $10,000 roof and the amount he would now have to spend to make the building habitable is financially prohibitive. The thing that makes the most sense for him at this point is to take the building down, he said.

Butterbaugh’s point was that damage caused by the storm could change the minds of numerous property owners in Fairfax about their plans.

“We know we can’t let this go without restoring … without restoration,” Paslay said. “We’re going to go through every avenue.”