Public facilities damage estimate mounts

Robert Smith
Officials think it may cost $1.5 million to repair rural Blackburn Road, southwest of Hominy. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital.

It has been two months since the worst of the flooding that Osage County experienced following waves of spring storms, but the process of tallying up the damage continues.

Jerry Roberts, director of Osage County Emergency Management, said Friday that the baseline estimate for the value of public facilities damage throughout the county is probably going to be at least $3-5 million. Roberts said he can imagine the number going higher, but not lower.

“That’s just a rough guess right now,” Roberts said of the dollar figure.

“That’s what we’re working on this week,” he added Friday, referring to the process of developing public facilities damage numbers. There was public facilities damage in Avant and Hominy, three county road maintenance barns were damaged, and the Hominy Rural Fire Department had vehicles damaged during high-water rescues, and there’s more.

Roberts said many private citizens whose homes were damaged have been able to get some help from the national government and begin piecing their lives back together. He credited mobile disaster recovery centers that the feds held in Avant and Hominy with giving citizens much-needed help navigating the documentation that is a part of applying for assistance.

In Avant there is a road washout that is about 60-by-100 in surface size and perhaps 35-feet deep, Roberts said. It is one of a potentially growing number of road washouts that were either known about pretty immediately after the flooding, or are being discovered later.

“I don’t know what it’s going to cost to fix it,” Roberts said of the Avant road washout. He said the affected road is within city limits, but the county maintains it. Another road washout, southwest of Hominy on rural Blackburn Road, has been estimated as perhaps a $1.5 million project.

Another concern that has developed in Avant is cracking in the walls of the school gym, which adjoins the cafeteria. This building has been the center of the community’s disaster response, a place where residents who couldn’t cook at home could come for hot meals. Roberts said Friday that he thought expert advice would probably be needed to make a determination about whether the rains and the flooding caused the cracking.

Nona Roach of Avant, who has helped to coordinate many storm-recovery activities there, said she was amazed by the development of the wall-crack problem at the gym. She expressed hope that assistance money to address public facilities damage would be available for the gym.

Cindi Hemm, Avant’s school superintendent, attended the Monday, July 22, meeting of the county board of commissioners. Hemm said a structural engineer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had looked at the gym and had offered the view that the building would be safe to use as long as it didn’t deteriorate seriously.

Hemm said the deterioration has continued, with widening of cracks and the appearance of more cracks. The gym, which was built in 1951, had water in its basement for weeks following catastrophic flooding in Avant in late May. She maintained a hopeful attitude Monday about being able to use the gym, but said there is a plan in place if the building becomes a danger to students and teachers.

Hemm said Avant has outbuildings it can use to start school if the gym deteriorates too much. She added that the small school district has a bonding capacity of $830,000 and it is already at $550,000. If the gym must be replaced, Avant will need help, she said.

Roberts said he thinks the overall recovery process will go on for a fairly long time.

“It’s not going to be over anytime soon. I really think it’ll go on for quite a period,” he said. “We’re still finding bad spots on roads that need work done on them almost daily.”

Felix Nance, director of Emergency Management in Hominy, said he welcomed the federal disaster recovery activity that was held July 11-16 at the local middle school. It gave people whose applications for federal aid had been declined get answers, he said. Most individuals in the community have reached a point where they are beginning to put things back together, he said.

“Everybody is back in their home or an alternate location while they are working on their home,” Nance said.

In Avant, Roach said an unanticipated but very valuable and encouraging development had been private assistance from The Dream Center, a faith-based community center located in north Tulsa. The Dream Center provided supplies such as drywall and insulation, she said.

“It’s been amazing. I couldn’t believe it,” Roach said.