Union Township still facing tornado clean-up

By Matt Clevenger - For the Miami Valley Sunday News

LAURA — More than four months have passed since the May 27 storm that unleashed a burst of tornados across the Miami Valley, and officials in Union Township are still dealing with the damage.

“Our focus a lot of this summer has been on the clean-up effort from the tornado,” Union Township Board of Trustees President Dennis Albaugh said Thursday, Sept. 26, during a special joint meeting between the Union Township Trustees, the West Milton Village Council and the Milton-Union Board of Education.

“There were over 150 affected,” Albaugh said. “I think there were 19 homes totally destroyed. That doesn’t sound like a lot to some people, but it sounds like a whole lot to us.”

Assistance is still available for tornado victims, and a special phone number has also been created for local residents to access help. Tornado victims can call 1-855-405-7629 anytime between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“The big thing now is trying to get the word out to people that there is still assistance available,” Albaugh said. “The Milton Council of Churches has been working very hard to put together some funds. They have money to give to victims of the tornado, whether they were destroyed, major damage or minor damage.”

County officials have also agreed to waive any building fees for tornado victims who are rebuilding. “That was a really great thing that we got accomplished there,” Albaugh said. “Phil (Mote) was instrumental in talking with the county commissioners to ask them to waive any building fees or zoning fees that may have been created for those folks who have to rebuild their homes.”

Union Township did not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); fortunately, the county commissioners have also approved a donation of $16,000 to Union Township.

“That was really a nice gift that they gave us,” Mote said. “Since we didn’t hit the FEMA threshold, the county did come through with $16,000 for the township, which is really going to help us with some road projects.”

Tornado clean-up efforts, including providing dumpsters for residents to get rid of debris, took up about half of the township’s road budget for the year. “Our road repairs have been on hold this summer as a result of that,” Albaugh said. “We are still working on Coppock Road, it needed some culvert pipes. There were holes developing in the road, and that’s not something you can really put off.”

Kessler-Frederick Road also needs a new culvert pipe installed. “We’re going to try to get that when the school’s closed, because it may take a few days to get that one done,” Albaugh said.

In other business, Milton-Union Schools Superintendent Brad Ritchey gave an update detailing the district’s recent state-issued report card. “We got a C,” Ritchey said. “We’re right in the middle, and the state has created a near-perfect Bell curve with the districts that have gotten As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs. I think there were only four districts in the state that got an F.”

Even fewer districts managed to score an A. “There aren’t many,” Ritchey said. “It’s pretty hard to do.”

Ritchey also discussed the district’s new pick-up system for elementary dismissal. “Everyday has been better than the last,” he said. “The first day of school was pretty challenging.”

“It’s not a perfect system,” he said. “For the first few days of school, it encouraged people to get there as early as possible and then line up in a way that we had never seen people line up before.”

Ritchey recommends that parents wait until 3:35 p.m. to be at the school if possible. “If you get in the line early, then you’re going to wait a lot longer,” he said. “Today everybody was gone by 3:39. That’s as fast or faster than most of our days last year. It may seem bad, but the time is about the same or maybe even a little better.”

Officials from the village of West Milton also attended the joint meeting and Municipal Manager Matt Kline provided an update on several city projects, including the intersection at Market, Jay and Stillwater and repairs to a clarifier used for wastewater treatment.

“It is not completed yet,” Kline said of the intersection of Market, Jay and Stillwater. “We still have a small punch list of infrastructure stuff we need to do.”

“That intersection will now take you perpendicular to Market,” he said. “Where you were coming in at an angle before, we’ve been able to make that bend so it’s a little safer intersection.”

Kline said the final report on the wastewater treatment clarifier will be in next week. “We have to figure out how we’re going to pay for it,” he said. “There are some adjustments that need to be made to that clarifier that are going to be tens of thousands of dollars to fix.”

Village officials also discussed the success of the recent “Rock the Hill” concert that was held at Community Park on August 17. The event drew an estimated 700 people to the park, without a single incident.

“It really went well,” Kline said. “We were able to have beer and wine, both made locally. The beer was from Arcanum; the wine was from Old Mason Winery. We reported no incidents, period.”

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re excited about next year.”

By Matt Clevenger

For the Miami Valley Sunday News