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Help still needed for tornado victims

Sept. 7, 2011 By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor There has been a little bit of media attention for the three-month anniversary of the tornado on June 1. From my prejudiced point of view, there has been some progress, but not enough. When I go out my front door in Springfield, I see a house that has been sealed up, but essentially in the same condition it was three months ago. As I walk down the street, there are three homes that are in a similar state — although one has had a security fence now erected around it. None of them show any advancement toward repair. On the side street of Clark Street, there is one family living in their home, all the rest of the houses are closed and condemned. One home appears to be the object of a major reconstruction job. The debris from the other homes has barely been touched. There has been a fence of sorts erected around one property. I’m at the end of my street and at the intersection with Central Street. Another house has been sealed and is in some sort of suspended animation. There is a brick apartment building down Central Street a bit that has yet to be touched. The church on the corner of Beech and Central streets is getting a new roof. That’s good news, but there are at least three condemned homes on Beech Street that sit untouched since June 1. On Florence Street, some homes have been repaired. The sidewalks that have been broken by uprooted trees have yet to be restored. The sea of blue tarps on Hawthorne Street indicates that much roof work still needs to be done. If my neighbors are like me, they are having problems finding contractors willing to work with people whose insurance settlement is either being controlled by a mortgage lender or the insurance company itself. With winter approaching, the concern is heightened as to whether or not we all will be able to get the repairs done before the snow flies. While I’m thankful that so much has been done to help people, I have to emphasize that much more is required. If I had a magic wand, I’d like city officials to assemble a status report on every affected property. Are the property owners trying to restore a building? Have they walked away? Is there help they could get? If people in the tornado hit areas knew what was happening perhaps there could be a sharing of information and recommendations about contractors. A distribution of information could result in a pooling of resources. We’ve had the listening tour about what residents would like to see in the rebuilding of the city, but now we need an event featuring reliable contractors willing to work with residents. Is the city willing to do that? Mayor Domenic Sarno brought House Speaker Robert DeLeo through my neighborhood last week — closed to the press — and then over to East Forest Park, where the press was invited. That’s all well and good, but how does that help my neighbors and me? The only “bright” spot in all of this stagnation is that Hurricane Irene didn’t pound us as she did Franklin County and Vermont. My heart goes out to those areas. I try not to get angry, but when I hear people such as Congressman Ron Paul say the federal disaster aid is unnecessary and we should return to an era without federal help, I get furious. And now, Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican budget guru, is saying disaster relief has to be countered by cuts elsewhere, despite the fact that he lobbied hard for his district in Richmond, Va., when Tropical Storm Gaston slammed that city in 2004. Ah, the difference a few years make. At that time, he wrote in a press release, “The magnitude of the damage suffered by the Richmond area is beyond what the Commonwealth can handle and that is why I asked the president to make federal funds available for the citizens affected by Gaston.” So asking for relief is fine when a Republican president is sitting in the White House, but now it’s acceptable to politicize natural disasters and turn them into some sort of talking point. @#$%! politician! I just hope in another three months, I’ll have something more positive to share. In the meantime, if you’re a contractor willing to work with folks who need help, drop me a line. Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper. Bookmark and Share
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